Human Factors Blog Entry #7 – Risk and Ethics

While on the surface, risk management and ethics may be two very different topics, I believe the two are quite closely linked. By following the correct ethical procedures, you can eliminate all risk. I am not talking about the kind of business risks such as product ideas or investment plans, I am referring to risks that can ruin a company’s image and reputation.

While filling out the Form 7 for my user testing project, I encountered the entire list of risks not considered to be minimal risk and needs to be avoided:

  • Research on sensitive topics that could cause distress to research subjects/participants
  • Action research
  • Deception (e.g. research in which some aspect of the procedure is deliberately misrepresented or withheld from the subject for experimental purposes)
  • Recruitment via telephone, except by random digit dialing
  • Database linkage where personal identifiers are being used to probabilistically link one or more existing databases with new databases or surveys
  • Use of oral consent or passive consent
  • Inclusion of research subjects/participants who are less than 19 years of age
  • Inclusion of research subjects/participants who are unable to be fully informed, such as those with mental disabilities or dementia
  • Access to medical records
  • Recruitment of patients by physicians or medical staff
  • Surveys using online survey companies (e.g. Survey Monkey or Zoomerang) that analyze, store or process the data outside of Canada
  • Any videotaping, photographing, or digital image recording, unless the images show no identifiable people or places
  • Focus Groups in which personal, sensitive, or controversial issues are discussed

I would like to see these guidelines to be someday applied to everyday life. If businesses were more ethical in the treatment of customers and employees, there would be less problems in the world. If businesses didn’t use misleading advertising and secret spying and data mining of user data, we would trust our companies and politicians alot more. Ethics isn’t a hard concept to grasp, but some people’s moral compass are easily swayed.


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