Data scientists at LinkedIn conducted research on members to examine the impact of strong ties and weak ties in the first large scale, longitudinal study of its kind. The study, reported in Science, has raised a host of questions, as discussed by Ashley Belanger in Ars Technica. The questions concern the appropriateness of relying on an initial user agreement to gain the consent of the 20 million LinkedIn users to participate in the study.
The LinkedIn example is worth further consideration both because it is not the first and it will not be the last company to conduct research on users. Moreover, the findings of the study advance our thinking about the impact of weak and strong ties in social networks, and the Institutional Review Board at MIT approved the study as conducted.