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I Want Your (Anonymized) Social Media Data | The Conversation

By Anthony Sanford
June 6, 2018

Social media sites’ responses to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and new European privacy regulations have given users much more control over who can access their data, and for what purposes. To me, as a social media user, these are positive developments: It’s scary to think what these platforms could do with the troves of data available about me. But as a researcher, increased restrictions on data sharing worry me.

I am among the many scholars who depend on data from social media to gain insights into people’s actions. In a rush to protect individuals’ privacy, I worry that an unintended casualty could be knowledge about human nature. My most recent work, for example, analyzes feelings people express on Twitter to explain why the stock market fluctuates so much over the course of a single day. There are applications well beyond finance. Other scholars have studied mass transit rider satisfaction, emergency alert systems’ function during natural disasters and how online interactions influence people’s desire to lead healthy lifestyles.

This poses a dilemma – not just for me personally, but for society as a whole. Most people don’t want social media platforms to share or sell their personal information, unless specifically authorized by the individual user. But as members of a collective society, it’s useful to understand the social forces at work influencing everyday life and long-term trends. Before the recent crises, Facebook and other companies had already been making it hard for legitimate researchers to use their data, including by making it more difficult and more expensive to download and access data for analysis. The renewed public pressure for privacy means it’s likely to get even tougher.

Source: I Want Your (Anonymized) Social Media Data | The Conversation

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