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Ethics Guidelines for Internet-mediated Research

Internet-mediated research (IMR) can raise particular, sometimes non-obvious, challenges in adhering to existing ethics principles. In this document we outline some of the key ethics issues which researchers and research ethics committees (RECs) are advised to keep in mind when considering implementing or evaluating an IMR study. Considering each of the four main ethics principles as outlined in the Society's Code of Human Research Ethics, we highlightissues which may need special consideration in an IMR context,using illustrative examples to explain why. These issues include: the public-private domain distinction online; confidentiality and security of online data; procedures for obtaining valid consent; procedures for ensuring withdrawal rights and debriefing; levels of researcher control; and implications for scientific value and potential harm.Emphasis throughout is on offering advice on how to think about and apply existing ethics principles in an IMR context, while recognising that issues need to be assessed and decisions made within the context of a particular piece of research...

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