I maintain a Facebook account purely for research purposes. I have about 30 or so friends on my account. I have always disagreed with FB and its ethics, however, recently, in the light of the CA scandal I have found myself increasingly questioning my use of the site.

The benefits that FB provide to the researcher of virtual communities are undoubtedly strong. Much of my master’s research focused on virtual communities in Iraq and Syria, and much of this would have been impossible without FB. However now I am considering deleting my account in the wake of these – unsurprising – revelations.

As a PhD student, the benefits of being part of an online social community are notable. As a Linux user and a supporter of Free and Open Source Software I also have to wrestle with the occasional difficulties of trying to get software to work which Windows or Macs users would breeze through with ease, but I am happy to do so because of my support for free software and the additional learning/skills I inherit.

Maintaining an ethical standard re software and software companies becomes increasingly difficult in the modern climate. Does one just put one’s ethical beliefs on the back burner in the interests of research and should one be perpetually plagued with the decisions one has made to maintain a FB account in spite of disagreeing strongly with the company? Or does one delete one’s account and potentially miss out on the great research opportunities it provides?

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