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Privacy for whom?: a feminist intervention in online research practice

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As shifts in technology and culture have complicated traditional definitions of privacy, researchers need new approaches to navigating privacy in online contexts. In this article, we argue that the experiences and perceptions of vulnerable groups must form the starting point for online researchers’ ethical decision-making, regardless of whether their research population qualifies as ‘vulnerable.’ This is especially important in spaces where privacy violations put people, particularly marginalized individuals, at risk for online harassment and abuse, among other harms. We seek to intervene in online research practices by putting forth a feminist approach to privacy, drawing on two studies related to online harassment. Specifically, we argue that feminist theory and methodology inform an approach to privacy that (a) starts from the lives of socially and politically vulnerable groups, (b) takes an intersectional approach to analyzing power relations, and (c) draws on a moral imperative of care and responsibility in enacting feminist principles of context, dialogue, and reflexivity throughout the research process. In doing so, we offer questions to prompt critical reflection on privacy concerns in online research.
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Keywords: Privacy; feminism; harassment; online ethics; online research

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Publication date: August 24, 2019

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