Beyond IRBs: Ethical Guidelines for Data Research

by Omer Tene and Jules Polonetsky

Non-data related ethical concerns are not unique to big R research. As they develop products, companies frequently test and experiment in ways unrelated to the collection and use of personal information. They A/B test products, experiment with new drugs and closely examine the performance of new services. Some of these activities are governed specifically by a range of regulatory agencies handling safety issues, including the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Transportation, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and more generally, the FTC. This article focuses specifically on issues related to data-driven research, which is an area where the notion of harm is still hotly debated and both benefit and risk are typically intangible.