Personal data can be vulnerable to publication or information leakage. Conducting research requires scientists to work directly with raw data, which is usually obtained directly from the participants. Therefore, researchers must comply with the laws and regulations governing the publication, use, and dissemination of personal data. The protection of personal data is a matter of research ethics that is protected by law. This paper aims to analyze two articles that use various methods of data gathering and analysis in terms of data vulnerability.
Comparing the Data Collection Methods
The first article reports the performance of the predictive policing research which entails the application of statistical methods for subsequent prediction. Notably, the practice of forecasting involves identifying likely targets for intervention to prevent crime. The article describes an experiment with the purpose of subsequent prediction, conducted in 2012 in Louisiana (Hunt et al., 2014). The researchers used an original statistical probability model for property crimes within a single block. Therefore, in the study, generalized data on the levels of crime in the experimental and control areas were subjected to analysis. The result was a map that showed the expected levels of crime in the area chosen for analysis.
In the second study, the authors worked with more sensitive data that were subjected to comprehensive analysis. They conducted a community survey on victimization, attitudes, and rates of crime reporting in 1976 to determine the general tendencies in the chosen community and the attitudes towards the police services, with the topics of response time, encounters, and perceptions discussed (Kelling et al., 1974). The researchers also conducted surveys with officers who shared their observations in participant-observer interviews and officer interviews. The departmental data on reported crime, computer dispatch, traffic data, arrest data, personnel records, and officer activity analysis data were compiled and analyzed. In the second study, the researchers treated the data responsibly and consciously. In particular, the researchers claimed that many of the sources “were used to monitor the degree to which experimental conditions were maintained or to identify unanticipated consequences of the experiment” (Kelling et al., 1974, p. 10). Findings derived from the community survey, commercial survey, participant-observer transaction recordings, reported crime, arrest data, and response time survey were analyzed.
Vulnerabilities of the Research Findings
Given the information above, the research findings presented in the first articles do not demonstrate any vulnerabilities since only generalized data were used. At the same time, particularly detailed opinions of officers and community members from the second research could be seen as confidential information. Therefore, such information should have been treated under guidelines developed by Institutional Review Boards (“Institutional Review Boards,” 2022). Equally important, the privacy of other personal data must be respected and protected.
For example, scientists should protect information about personality, thoughts, or biological information. There are also alternative methods that could be applied to limit liabilities. Notably, personal and biological information about research participants may only be disclosed in the general interest (Bracken-Roche et al., 2018). Therefore, a study examining opinions about the state of policing services could avoid the disclosure of sensitive data entirely, even among the research team. Such a solution would help prevent possible consequences, such as conflicts due to information leaks if officers or members of the community expressed unfavorable opinions about the work of the police.
Thus, two articles that use various methods of data collection and analysis were discussed. Since the first article used more generalized data, the results of the study do not show vulnerability to illegal dissemination of information. At the same time, the second article used confidential data, such as the personal opinions of community members and police officers. Dissemination of such data without the knowledge and consent of participants and copyright holders can lead to unforeseen consequences, so the security of data of research participants must be protected.
Bracken-Roche, D., Bell, E., Macdonald, M. E., & Racine, E. (2018). The concept of ‘vulnerability’ in research ethics: an in-depth analysis of policies and guidelines. Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(1), 1-18.
Hunt, P., Hollywood, J. S., & Saunders, J. M. (2014). Evaluation of the Shreveport Predictive policing experiment. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.
Kelling, G. L., Pate, T., Dieckman, D., & Brown, C. E. (1974). The Kansas City preventive patrol experiment. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.