Ethics in cryptomarket research

James Martin*, Nicolas Christin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background The recent proliferation of cryptomarkets and the associated emergence of a sub-field of research on the anonymous web have outpaced the development of an ethical consensus regarding research methods and dissemination amongst scholars working in this unique online space. The peculiar characteristics of cryptomarket research, which often involves encryption, illegal activity, large-scale data collection, and geographical separation from research participants, challenge conventional ethical frameworks. A further complicating factor for reaching ethical consensus is the confluence of scholars drawn from a variety of academic disciplines, each with their own particular norms, practices and perspectives. This paper is intended to stimulate awareness and debate, and to prompt further reflection amongst scholars studying these fascinating online phenomena. The paper explores tensions and addresses some of the more prominent and pressing ethical questions, including public vs. private online spaces, anonymity, data sharing and ownership, risks and threats to research subjects and researchers. Also discussed is how best to balance the potential harms of cryptomarket research against benefits to the public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-91
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Cryptomarkets
  • Research ethics
  • Anonymous web
  • Online drug distribution


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