OpinionNet Monitoring of Social Media by the Government, for Emergency Services, and for Brand Marketing- What are the social-ethical issues?

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Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Tess GilfedderQueensland University of Technology

Abstract

New applications being developed by research institutes are raising socio-ethical issues. Is it right to be monitoring the conversations of public sentiment over Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? Should governments be telling their citizens when they are using such opinion net monitors? Is it ethical for large companies to be monitoring "public" conversations online regarding their brands? Are consumers fully aware that everything they write on "public" resources might well be used for other purposes than what it was collected? What is the difference between Australian Privacy laws and those say of the US which rely on social contracts? Monitoring data without the consent or knowledge of the authors is like conducting covert surveillance. It may be acceptable, in fact desired, to use microblogging for emergency services but certainly not to monitor the views of citizens during a political campaign in order to sway or directly manipulate citizen sentiment. This might be considered a direct form of manipulation. How will citizens denote real information from disinformation in the future when these technologies and applications become so sophisticated that they will evolve to monitor and then using intelligent means, distribute sentiment in response?

Suggested Citation

Katina Michael and Tess Gilfedder. "OpinionNet Monitoring of Social Media by the Government, for Emergency Services, and for Brand Marketing- What are the social-ethical issues?" The Wire - Independent News and Current Affairs (Radio 4EB FM 98.1 Brisbane) Nov. 2012.