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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Australian agency to probe Facebook after shocking revelation – The New Daily (April 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 8, 2018
 

Australian’s privacy commissioner will conduct a formal investigation into Facebook after the US social media giant revealed up to one in 50 local users may have had their personal information accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

The 87 million Facebook users who had their information ‘scraped’ for Cambridge Analytica included over 310,000 Australians. This would appear to be shocking breach of the Commonwealth Privacy Act and both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have serious questions to answer. It is worth noting the app that made this possible was written by a university-based researcher and the information scraped without the knowledge (much less consent) of the users was then sold.

The probe will establish whether the Mark Zuckerberg-led multi-billion dollar behemoth breached the Australian privacy act.
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Facebook has admitted 311,127 Australian users are likely among the up to 87 million users worldwide whose data was unknowingly and “improperly” shared with the British political consultancy agency.
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“All organisations that are covered by the Privacy Act have obligations in relation to the personal information that they hold,” Acting Information and Privacy Commissioner privacy commissioner Angelene Falk said on Thursday.
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“This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that personal information is held securely, and ensuring that customers are adequately notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.”

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Hundreds of universities targeted in global data steal – University World News (Yojana Sharma | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 2, 2018
 

Information emerged last week of data stolen from universities around the world after the United States Department of Justice released details indicting nine Iranian nationals for stealing research from universities, research institutions, technology companies and other organisations, including the United Nations.

The amount of data stolen is staggering in scale, equivalent to eight billion double-sided pages of text. More than 300 universities were targeted and around 8,000 professors’ email accounts were compromised, it is alleged.

The information stolen from universities was used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Iran’s intelligence organisation and other Iranian government and university clients – or sold for profit inside Iran, according to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, releasing the indictment details on 23 March.

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Dark past of deep-brain stimulation – Nature (Christian Lüscher | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 1, 2018
 

Christian Lüscher considers an alarming career from the early days of psychiatry.

Many people consider deep-brain stimulation (DBS) to have begun in 1987 in Grenoble, France, when Pierre Pollak and Alim Benabid stopped a person’s tremor by delivering high-frequency pulses of electricity to her thalamus. In fact, more than three decades earlier, a psychiatrist called Robert G. Heath at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, had experimented with this approach. Now, science writer Lone Frank pulls Heath (1915–99) from obscurity for her exploration of DBS, The Pleasure Shock.

As AHRECS readers know, we believe there is a trap in using egregious ethical lapses/scandals in human research ethics professional development activities, but this awful story is a less commonly known example and a chance to talk about the ends not justifying the means.

Frank has traced and interviewed surviving patients, former collaborators, family members and current DBS scientists. The result is a rarity: a thrilling, well-researched read. Above all, it is a chilling reminder of how early neurosurgical experimentation knew few ethical boundaries — even firmly within the medical and academic establishment. Heath was chair of Tulane’s psychiatry and neurology department for 31 years, from 1949 to 1980.
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Today, DBS is an approved treatment for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia (uncontrollable muscle contractions) and essential tremor. Other indications, such as therapy for obsessive–compulsive disorder, depression and addiction, are the focus of intensive research. Just a few patients are treated ‘off label’, with mixed results.
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Cambridge Analytica controversy must spur researchers to update data ethics – Nature (Editorial | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on March 30, 2018
 

A scandal over an academic’s use of Facebook data highlights the need for research scrutiny.

Revelations keep emerging in the Cambridge Analytica personal-data scandal, which has captured global public attention for more than a week. But when the dust settles, researchers harvesting data online will face greater scrutiny. And so they should.

At the centre of the controversy is Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2014, he recruited people to complete a number of surveys and sign up to an app that handed over Facebook information on themselves — and tens of millions of Facebook friends. Kogan passed the data to SCL, a UK firm that later founded controversial political-consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica in London. (All those involved deny any wrongdoing.)

Last week, Facebook announced restrictions on data harvesting by third parties, including drastically reducing the kinds of information that app developers can access. (It had already changed its rules in 2014 to stop developers gleaning data from users’ friends through their apps.) But damage has been done: the public has good reason to be angry about the way in which researchers and companies have seemingly used personal data without consumers’ full understanding or consent.

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