Linking survey and Twitter data: informed consent, disclosure, security, and archiving

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics


Luke Sloan, Curtis Jessop, Tarek Al Baghal and Matthew Williams

Publication date


Linked survey and Twitter data present an unprecedented opportunity for social scientific analysis, but the ethical implications for such work are complex—requiring a deeper understanding of the nature and composition of Twitter data to fully appreciate the risks of disclosure and harm to participants. In this article, we draw on our experience of three recent linked data studies, briefly discussing the background research on data linkage and the complications around ensuring informed consent. Particular attention is paid to the vast array of data available from Twitter and in what manner it might be disclosive. In light of this, the issues of maintaining security, minimizing risk, archiving, and reuse are applied to linked Twitter and survey data. In conclusion, we reflect on how our ability to collect and work with Twitter data has outpaced our technical understandings of how the data are constituted and observe that understanding one’s data is an essential prerequisite for ensuring best ethical practice.





Information And Communication Technologies, Social Networks and Survey Methodology


Online Early; Open Access; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (