2009 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 21, 2009
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



It’s Easy and It’s Legal, But Is It Ethical? Tracking Student Progress on Facebook

Lisa Peterson, Allison Kang, Lori Miller, Elena Hernández (UW GenOM Project/College of Engineering)

Many agencies that fund intervention programs require long-term tracking in addition to other assessment and evaluation activities. The various search features on the Internet have brought new ways of tracking the progress of student participants and alumni.

Social networking sites such as Facebook are effective tools for programs to communicate with students and build community [1, 2]. Students provide a remarkable amount of information on these sites and previous research [3] has shown that the vast majority of this information is factual. Therefore, sites like Facebook offer a rich source of data.

Is it ethical to use sites like Facebook to obtain information from our students, and is it legal and ethical to pass on that data to a third party? Privacy/confidentiality, informed consent, and protection of student identity are concerns. Educating students about their potential risks for information disclosure is another issue that deserves thoughtful time and research.

Focusing on Facebook, we will present findings from the Fourth Amendment, issues of student confidentiality through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, human rights and ethical aspects that are addressed by Institutional Review Boards, the regulation of internet traffic through the Federal Trade Commission, and Facebook’s own policies.

1. Ellison, N.B., C. Steinfield, and C. Lampe, The benefits of Facebook "Friends:" Social capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2007. 12: p. 1143-1168.
2. Ellison, N.B., C. Steinfield, and C. Lampe. Spatially bounded online social networks and social capital: The role of Facebook. in Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. 2006. Dresden, Germany.
3. Acquisti, A. and R. Gross. Imagined communities: Awareness, information sharing, and privacy on the Facebook. in 6th International Workshop, Privacy Enhancing Technologies. 2006. Cambridge, UK: Springer.


Index of Symposium Presenters