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Should social-media data be used for research?

2 min read

Social Media

Facebook’s stance on user privacy is anything but straightforward. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims the concept is irrelevant — but it’s clear from looking at user reactions to the various settings changes over the past 18 months that not everyone on the network agrees with him.

Yet when someone wants to actually do something with that data, the way Pete Warden did,  as detailed in the lead story from today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, the network has a decidedly different reaction. Why the shift? Was it because Facebook didn’t stand to profit from giving data away to academics? Was it because it was worried about fan backlash? Maybe Facebook wants the option to do something similar on its own one day?

The explanation that Facebook was worried about creating a historical record of user preferences seems flimsy to me. I’m willing to be that it reasoned that if it was going to upset their users with privacy concerns, it should profit in some way. I’d be surprised if it didn’t look for a way to do just that before too long.

Are you comfortable with the idea of social-media data being used for research? Should Facebook have allowed Pete Warden’s work to continue?

Image credit, gualtiero boff, via Shutterstock