Innovation or Violation? Leveraging Mobile Technology to Conduct Socially Responsible Community Research
journal contributionposted on 19.06.2018, 00:00 by Amanda L. Roy
Mobile technology is increasingly being used to measure individuals’ moods, thoughts, and behaviors in real time. Current examples include the use of smartphones to collect ecological momentary assessments (EMAs; assessments delivered “in the moment”), wearable technology to passively collect objective measures of participants’ movement, physical activity, sleep, and physiological response, and smartphones and wearable devices with Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities to collect precise information about where participants spend their time. While advances in mobile technology offer exciting opportunities for measuring and modeling individuals’ experiences in their natural environments, they also introduce new ethical issues. Drawing on lessons learned while collecting GPS coordinates and EMAs measuring mood, companionship, and health-risk behavior with a sample of low-income, predominantly racial/ethnic minority youth living in Chicago, this manuscript discusses ethical challenges specific to the methodology (e.g. unanticipated access to personal information) and broader concerns related to data conceptualization and interpretation (e.g. the ethics of “monitoring” low-income youth of color). While encouraging researchers to embrace innovations offered by mobile technology, this discussion highlights (just some) of the many ethical issues that also need to be considered.