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Risk of disclosure of participating in an internet-based HIV behavioural risk study of men who have sex with men
  1. Christine M Khosropour,
  2. Patrick S Sullivan
  1. Department of Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Patrick S Sullivan, Department of Epidemiology, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA; patrick.sullivan{at}


As the frequency of internet-based research has increased, it is important for researchers to consider how the conditions in which data are collected may influence the risks to participants. In particular, because internet-based data collection often occurs outside a clinical or research setting, there may be unintentional disclosures of a participant's involvement in a research study of which the researcher is unaware. The current analysis examined the responses of men who have sex with men participating in an internet-based HIV behavioural risk study when queried about the possible disclosure of their participation in the study. Fewer than 2% of participants indicated that their participation in the research study was disclosed, and all but one indicated no negative outcomes associated with the disclosure. As the field of online research continues to expand, it is important to consider risks that are unique to internet-based research, and to monitor these risks to ensure that the confidentiality of research subjects is maintained.

  • Behavioural research
  • confidentiality
  • internet
  • research methodology

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  • Funding The authors disclose receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: Emory Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI050409) and the National Institutes of Health – National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (MD004370). The funding source had no involvement in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Institutional Review Board of Emory University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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