You provide carefully worded - by specialist lawyers - release/consent forms and a long written explanation of what the research project (respondents are participating in) is for and who will see their footage. And all the respondents want to do is sign it to get paid. They know they have no control over what happens to their images. They are resigned to never knowing. So ling as they don't see their images unexpectedly. I know this because I have handed release forms to subjects ranging from mums to HIV patients and their physicians. I have also, across the years, asked respondents to sign forms which allowed the client to use their images for anything they wanted to including public broadcasts.
But consent forms are not worth the paper they are written on.
Scenario 1: Two months after a video ethnography study of HIV sufferers, a subject decides they should never have taken part in our study. But it's too late, they signed our consent form and their footage has been distributed internally and externally at conferences. What can the respondent do? Accuse us of mis-informing them about some aspect of our explorations? Accuse us of not being more transparent/? They can do very little because we will prove they gave us 'informed content'. *This has never happened*
Scenario 2: While filming a family in their home, the kids' best friends from next door come over to play. You (researcher) continue to film. The best friends' parents find out and turn ballistic. How dare we... without prior permission. The police become involved as does the school. Ethnographer has to destroy tapes in front of police officer, parents and head teacher. The best friend's parents never speak to our respondents again. They were neighbours too. *this has happened*
Scenario 3: Client and research director are laughing hysterically about earnest conversations being held between mums/moderator in a focus group facility. Mum's can't see or hear who is on the other side of the two-way mirror. Yet they know people are watching. If they could hear what is being said on the other side, they would walk out. *this has happened*
Most of us believe signed releases are a green light to do whatever we want with the information we gather. Oh yes you do! But it really isn't. A consent form, in my humble opinion, and no matter how many lawyers have drafted and re-drafted it, is a defensive document for the researcher. It doesn't protect the respondent. Especially over the time their information is in circulation.
Today, I can reveal we are working on an amazing game changer of a solution. And it's EthOS driven.
The solution in seven steps:
1) When a researcher films a subject (recruited or random), they ask for the person's email address.
2) For every event captured of them, the subject receives a unique link.
3) Once fieldwork is complete the subject's email address is automatically deleted from the researcher's device. Researcher will never be able to contact subject again.
4) The subject returns home and clicks on the unique links (one for each film, picture and audio event captured0 to view and follow their images on the EthOS platform.
5) They can request deletions before an image has been revealed to anyone else. They can also request deletions months and years after the posting.
6) Very importantly, they can 'follow' their images and even see codes, notes, downloads and the reasons for downloading. Over time.
7) Depending on the country's privacy laws each link can also explain the subject's rights in some detail.
In a nutshell, the subject owns their image and controls it's distribution.
This development is about 2 months away, and I would love to see other mobile platform developers follow or even beat us to it.
More to follow but I would love comments from you, dear readers, to help us build a truly valuable consent feature...