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Conducting an Ethical Study of Web Traffic
John F. Duncan and L. Jean Camp, Indiana University
We conducted a study of student web browsing habits at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, in which we examined the web page requests of over 1,000 students during a period of two months. In this paper, we discuss the details of the study development and implementation from the point of view of ethical design. Concerns with stakeholder privacy, the quality of study data collection, human subjects research protocols, and unexpected data anomalies are presented in order to illustrate the many difficulties and ethical pitfalls confronting network researchers even at this small scale. Success and failures to meet the principles of ethical design are highlighted. A secondary contribution is the evolution of the instruments that were developed through the human subjects process. Finally, we discuss the impact of the Menlo Report (DHS-2011-0074) and similar documents on the future directions of network and security research.
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