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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    The ethics of being the subject of research (2)

    Yesterday, I received a letter from Sky, with a special invitation to join the Sky Viewer Panel to help with a "unique television research project" in which they were going to learn "much more about the programmes our customers most like to watch. Thanks, but no thanks! Two things worried me about the letter:
    It stated that the data would be collected directly from my Sky box and that I need do nothing to facilitate this except leave it switched on. The box would phone Sky once a day with the data. Firstly, this seems to suggest that the box is already recording and storing my viewing choices - and for all I know is already sharing that information with Sky. So - whether or not it IS sharing the information - my Sky box is spying on me and storing information. It is doing this without my consent. I would suggest that this is neither ethical nor does it sit happily with data protection laws.
    Secondly, for a communications company to suggest - and this at a point in time when we are regularly exhorted to turn off our TVs and videos rather than leave them on standby, thus saving a small city's worth of electricity - that we leave our Sky box on (on, not just on standby [see my subsequent comment to this post]) for 24 hours a day seems both irresponsible and inappropriate.
    I have emailed these concerns to Sky, and will report back.
    Maybe its just me, maybe I'm being a little precious, but I don't like the idea of a bit of kit in my house deciding to phone out and report on me. That's just a little too Big Brother for my taste. Its not just that it might report hours of watching soft porn channels, but it might rat on me watching Neighbours too! That would be seriously embarrasing!

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