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Informed Consent for Internet Research

The question about obtaining informed consent for research conducted over the internet is frequently raised. The difficulty comes in separating what may be regarded as private versus public space, especially from the perspective of the individual participant in the internet community. There are some considerations or best practices that we encourage the researcher to consider:

  • intrusiveness and sensitivity of topic being researched;
  • perceived privacy from the perspective of the prospective subject;
  • vulnerable and potential harm to prospective subject from a confidentiality breach;
  • various methods to advise potential subjects of the research and to ensure understanding and informed consent to participate;
  • ways to protect confidentiality of participants that may be different from more traditional research methods.

Whereas it may be possible to obtain consent online by providing an online information page with an “I agree” button, this does not provide valid documentation of consent. To use an online consent process, the research must qualify for a waiver of documentation of consent as defined under exceptions.

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