Ethical Issues such as Confidentiality and Anonymity with Testimonies

Sharing information including personal experiences about human rights issues can put some individuals at risk from their governments or other forces.  You are best able to judge whether sharing information for this project will put you at risk.  If you would like to contribute but with all identifying information removed from your profile page we will be happy to work with you to maintain your confidentiality.   We can even direct you to Internet tools that can be used to set up an anonymous email account.  However, none of these can absolutely guarantee your anonymity.  Please comment below about key issues regarding anonymity and confidentiality.To discuss options for preserving anonymity and/or confidentiality, email the site managers directly at

Comments (13)

  • Tiffanie O

    Tiffanie O

    April 20, 2016 at 06:01 | #

    Participatory Action Learning and Action Research (PALAR)

    Some of the key issues that are presented with the PALAR method are “universities not geared for collaborative and emergent forms of research with participants (rather than subjects) as co-researchers and co-creators of knowledge” (Zuber-Skerritt 16). These challenges include lack of support and time, inability to work in a large group, and all action (not much learning). Some of the political challenges can occur with the action and emotions aspect contributed in the PALAR method. For example, the PALAR method advocates for emotional involvement in a project that could potentially affect people. In addition, the method promotes social justice for marginalized people in different countries. Many of theses countries could have totalitarian or subjective governments that are not “welcoming” to social justice. This could potentially be a problem in the PALAR method. But, some of the solutions to these problems are setting time for critical reflection (to prevent psychology conflicts) and working in small network groups (to help prevent discouragement with strict governments).
    An ethical issues relating to the PALAR method and the GHRD website is the filtering of information that can be shared through this type of site. The goal of the GHRD website is to create a base for discussion. Issues could arise in disagreements of opinions or historical information. A discussion should take place before the website takes off that encompasses the rights that the founders of GHRD have to filter or remove anything that might cause a controversy that will turn away users. GHRD must also acknowledge that information shared by outside sources may not align with the opinions of the founders and GHRD should decide the protocol for this situation.


  • Eve Beauchemin

    Eve Beauchemin

    April 20, 2016 at 15:00 | #

    One key issue with transmedia storytelling is “…the ability to let go of control, and hand back the narrative over to communities” (1). Srivastava did not speak about how one can let the community take charge of their story. However, one can speculate that this could be done by having activists actively interact with community members, in order to guide and encourage them in their efforts, rather than having activists themselves report the community’s stories.
    (1) Srivastava, Lina. "Telling Stories: Lina Srivastava Talks About Transmedia Activism (Part Three)." Interview by Henry Jenkins. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Henry Jenkins, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 11 Apr. 2016


  • Jenna Brianne Radomski

    Jenna Brianne Radomski

    April 20, 2016 at 17:23 | #

    Participatory Action Research (PAR)

    Confidentiality and consent are ethical issues that arise in all types of research. In research, it is important that participants are constantly aware of the risks and provide ongoing consent to be a part of the experiment. With PAR, those involved are seen more as partners rather than ‘subjects’ throughout the collaborative process, so it is important that the terms and conditions of being involved are clearly laid out at the beginning of the research.

    The main ethical issues that were found involving PAR are based on the concept of dehumanization, and the use of human subjects. There are a lot of ethical issues when human subjects are involved, boards such as the IRB are in place to mediate these issues. Therefore, when working with a PAR method people would have to be aware of the ethical concerns around human subjects. The other main ethical issue that is present is the dehumanization of people. In PAR, since there is an equal distribution of power between participant and researcher, a lot of this issue is relieved, however it does still have to be addressed. Another issue that was discussed in multiple of the PAR articles that we looked at was confidentiality. Therefore, on the GHRD website we would just have to be mindful of people's confidentiality and make sure that none of their personal information is used in a harmful manner. This could be avoided multiple ways, including using a pseudonym to keep their personal information private.


  • Christa Sonderer

    Christa Sonderer

    April 21, 2016 at 18:16 | #

    One of the most pertinent issues when dealing with representing voices in indigenous research is the misrepresentation of indigenous people. Such misrepresentation can occur in varying degrees. For example, a researcher may not respect the community and may use the “research a practice of ‘othering’ people” (Huber 641), meaning that the purpose of the research is not to benefit the community but to satisfy only the goals of the researcher, or the researcher may try to understand the community in which they are researching but may fail to use the proper methods and procedures that allow them to express the communities in the way that they wish to be expressed. In both cases, the researcher tries to collaborate ideas that may not involve the indigenous people represented. However, any degree of misrepresentation can be prevented by using indigenous research methods because the basis of these methods lies in completing research for and by the indigenous community, thus bypassing, ideally, any racial or imperial underpinnings prevalent in Western research methods (Huber 642). Linda Smith also mentions this misrepresentation stating that one significant challenge researchers often face and may not even notice is that “so many [indigenous] communities are held hostage to expert research to the West and to models of development that negate local and indigenous knowledge” (129).

    Furthermore, researchers may try to inaccurately relate to the indigenous people in ways that do not respect the voices of indigenous people and also do not reciprocate their own experiences (Kovach). In other words, they try too hard to find a relation they can stretch. Another issue with indigenous research is that these types of methods are not widely promoted due to the lack of recognition (Kovach). Hence, they are often not chosen, and indigenous voices are not represented correctly. Kovach states that the struggle of indigenous research lies in the epistemology because “Indigenous epistemologies challenge the very core of knowledge production and purpose.” In order to solve many of these issues with indigenous research, different protocols and procedures are set during the research; the research staff includes an indigenous co-investigator, along with a non-indigenous principal researcher. Also, the design includes indigenous methods and cultural definitions and clarity to prepare each researcher. This plan allows researchers to have the necessary “social and cultural capital to reproduce this strategy independently” (Kovach).

    These issues - mis-representing indigenous communities, not abiding by the ethical code of conduct expected of research, further marginalizing indigenous communities, and reinforcing the “apartheid of knowledge in academia” or the support for Western ways of thinking and researching (Huber 640) - are very serious but are difficult to pinpoint as it is difficult to enforce things that are intangible, like ethics. While there are ethics review boards at some institutions (Porsanger 115), not all institutions take part in this and, as mentioned above, it is difficult to ensure that every aspect of the project respects and collaborates with the indigenous community. Thus, we would like to identify these ethical issues as something that needs to be addressed on the GHRD website. We believe that this website is actually more suited to addressing these issues than traditional research institutions because this website allows both the voices of the researcher and research participant to be heard. Thus, any ethical issues that may not normally be caught by say ethical review boards, might be brought to the public’s attention through the testimony, so to speak, of the research participant or community.


  • Ciara Ann Daniels

    Ciara Ann Daniels

    April 25, 2016 at 21:26 | #

    Many issues arise when representing these voices, especially when these are marginalized voices that are more often than not, not given a platform to talk. In the case of Pedagogy if the Oppressed, the issues are both ethical and economic. There is a lack of representation for voices of low-income students, that are often a racial minority as well. These groups face ethical issues such as racism and discrimination. Adding the poor economic status results in an unjust oppression of these people / students. Because of the economic and ethical issues and the resulting disadvantages they face, they lack representation in fields such as education. Economic / racial minorities do not have the same opportunities- they live in poorer and neglected neighborhoods where they do not receive the same educational materials their white counterparts do. As a result, they aren’t receiving the same education and are then in a position of disadvantage. The problem is that these issues are not being addressed; however, they should be by creating a space of understanding and communication between the oppressor and the oppressed. The marginalized voices need to be given a voice.


  • Jeffrey Tyler Gautreau

    Jeffrey Tyler Gautreau

    May 04, 2016 at 01:03 | #

    One program to help improve the conditions of Immigrants coming into America from the Mexican border was a photography campaign taking pictures of Immigrants coming into America with an artifact of significance. This campaign encouraged the immigrants to be photographed by focusing the the photographs on the artifact of significance and not exposing the immigrants faces. This program had huge success from both an artistic viewpoint and in achieving a high immigrant participation rate. In this way, autonomy is important in protecting the people who are helping to make change.


  • Gabrielle Ann Dietrich

    Gabrielle Ann Dietrich

    May 07, 2016 at 05:18 | #

    In dealing with human rights violations, specifically in the cases which the government is involved, it is very important to consider the want and need for sensitivity/ anonymity by the interviewee. There is a large danger that they and their families face by exposing themselves and their stories for a documentary. The question is, how do we avoid hurting these victims further while still giving them a voice. This is often an issue raised in regards to the presenting tactic of digital story telling. Human rights activists praise digital story telling for it's ability to present voices of marginalized people to a wider audience, but critics often liken it to vouyerism. Some documentaries attempt to counter-act this with distortion of voice and face, as we saw in the unit on Eritrea. But is this enough to protect the identities of the participants in these projects? This is the question that many strive to address.


  • Amanda Tran

    Amanda Tran

    May 07, 2016 at 06:13 | #

    When dealing with ethical issues such as confidentiality and anonymity, it is important to understand the marginalized people's choice in keeping their identity confidential or hidden. If this request is not given, then these marginalized people are less likely to share the experiences and participate in events that would help the human rights issue. It is important to respect their request for anonymity because it gives these marginalized people the chance to let their voices be heard without being criticized or harmed. Anonymity is also important in order to protect the voices that are being heard, especially those who are trying to make a difference against the human rights violators.


  • Brianna B Uhall

    Brianna B Uhall

    May 07, 2016 at 21:19 | #

    When discussing ethical issues, confidentiality and consent are two of the most important ones that have the potential to be an issue for many different areas of research. When doing research it is important to keep in mind the risks and make sure to have consent before continuing any further. In my experience with the PAR (participatory action research), which is quite unique in that the people who are involved are partners and are not really seen as victims or subject of interested. This is a very collaborative process that makes it where you can lay out the consent and questions to be explored at the beginning of the research process.
    When I was dealing with this type of research the main ethical problems that I was confronted with were confidentiality and dehumanization. Therefore when making use of this type of research on places such as this website, we will just have to be mindful that we are not dehumanizing people. And make sure that we are aware of any other ethical concerns that could arise as well. The problem of confidentiality can be solved by making sure that the people only release the information that they are comfortable with, and that their personal information is kept confidential. This could be done by not giving the correct birthday, but instead one similar, or not giving their real name, but instead giving another one. You even could have a voice changer that alters their voice so that they cannot be recognized at all to keep them confidential .


  • Vijay Karam Singh

    Vijay Karam Singh

    May 08, 2016 at 23:58 | #

    Just like in the field of medical ethics, it is always important to take the patients life and decisions as precedence no matter what. I have learned how important patient autonomy has been this past semester in my medical ethics and professional methods class and this can tie to many parallels with this specific blog post. It is always important to ask for the consent of whoever is going to reveal their story to the public because it is a very personal matter for them with what they went through in the past. It speaks magnitudes through for people to speak out and be active against the tragedies they went through, no matter how traumatic it was because in the end it means that they are becoming a voice for the voiceless and every little step they make allows a solution to be created some day in the future.


  • Ali Angelo

    Ali Angelo

    May 09, 2016 at 00:54 | #

    I agree that expressing one's true opinions may put them at risk with their government or other forces. However, I almost think that it is a risk that one must consider when speaking out. Yes, not everything is actually this black or white, but I believe one must weigh the consequences of speaking out and the rewards of the help that may come if they do. If they believe that keeping their anonymity or confidentiality is more important then that's fine, but that is a choice that has to be made.


  • Danielle Brianne Macias

    Danielle Brianne Macias

    May 09, 2016 at 03:31 | #

    i. The most important aspect of confidentiality and anonymity on GHRD is that the wishes of the individual sharing their experiences are observed and respected. Additionally, having people on GHRD who have experience in human rights, especially when it comes to issues of confidentiality and anonymity, who know how best to navigate through the possible dangers of over-sharing is also extremely important. Avoiding common ways that individuals are identified can also help protect people, such as publishing written accounts as opposed to filming an interview about one’s experiences. Since individuals may be at risk of being identified by their governments or other hostile forces, learning how they might be found out and working around these issues should be a min focus of GHRD.


  • Betsaida Arguelles Nebuay

    Betsaida Arguelles Nebuay

    May 09, 2016 at 05:36 | #

    Confidentiality and remaining anonymous is a really hard task. Even when extra precautions are taken there are still small risks. As ALI ANGELO has said the speaker must weigh the costs of speaking. It is not always this simple, but the speaker must really think if speaking is best or if remaining anonymous is the better choice. I understand that the speaker feels like they need to speak to help others, but we don't want someone else to be harmed.


Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.