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Facebook data infrastructure

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Presentation at digital media research seminar, The Centre for Communication and Computing, University of Copenhagen, November 14, 2012

Presentation at digital media research seminar, The Centre for Communication and Computing, University of Copenhagen, November 14, 2012


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  • 1. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS:FACEBOOK DATAINFRASTRUCTURE DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 1
  • 2. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 2
  • 3. Research interest•  More fenced-off and ubiquitous internet (cross-platform/ cross-services through login)•  How do we get access to closed data about users on private social networks as tool in virtual ethnography (e.g. Facebook) –  In order to analyze user behaviors with FB across websites –  User data structures –  Analyze navigation outside FB but related to FB (checkins) –  Analyze use patterns during the day (timely) –  Analyze digital cross-platform use of FB (laptop, smartphones, pdas) –  Analyze exposures to content from other website/media DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 3
  • 4. Existing methods•  Virtual ethnography (howard, wittel, marcus, markham, kendall, baym, boyd)•  Friending: –  You are not sure to get all activity because of sorting algorithms of Facebook –  You must manually export them to see patterns over time•  Following them physically –  Time consuming –  Too much intervention in everyday rhytms –  But you will get a lot of detail on the context of activity on Facebook that is not possible to get otherwise DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 4
  • 5. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS as data retrievaltool•  Act as an external ‘company’/third party when extracting data from Facebook•  Designed a webbased system called DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS •  Using Facebook’s graph API •  User consent that DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS draw info on users like any other application/website using facebook connect •  Users can withdraw anytime they like •  Researchers can mine data from the users and answer research questions in qualitative studies DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 5
  • 6. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 6
  • 7. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 7
  • 8. Digital FootprintsDIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 8
  • 9. Data extractions e.g.•  Demographics•  Newsfeeds•  Network and friends•  Likes•  Check-ins•  Private/public groups•  Pictures, status updates and uploaded material•  Friends material through consent of the participant etc. etc. etc…. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 9
  • 10. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 10
  • 11. •  www.digitalfootprints.dk/login DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 11
  • 12. Methodological triangulation (e.g.)1.  Harvesting private data with consent, mining these data (DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS)2. Focus group interviews with participants to understand their attitudes and strategies->Digital Footprints can help answer “what” and qualify other methods for asking “why” DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 12
  • 13. Strengths & limitations•  Strenghts –  Researchers can easily send link via email to participants, asking them to sign up for the research project –  Researchers can access closed data without profiles being public –  Data is saved in database which makes it possible to extract and sort different patterns –  Digital Footprints also allow researchers to study the newsfeed of the participants –  Researchers can study a variety of Facebook activities in one system•  Limitations –  Methodologically users must be chosen beforehand and asked to participate –  Not representative sampling/data –  Digital Footprints relies on the graph API settings which is controlled by Facebook –  Therefore “only” qualitative virtual ethnographic tool –  Cannot register user traffic patterns (click-through analysis) DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 13
  • 14. Future research•  (How) can we make data retrieval through Facebook Graph APIs representative – how do we recruit for quantitative analysis•  Problems: –  Representative users or certain kind of users that uses this application –  If not application – certain types of users that has public profiles –  What is the Facebook population from which we sample?•  What about the ethical question of retrieving friends data as well?•  Problems: –  When retrieving data friends will comment, like etc. on the participant’s data and therefore be visible in the system –  Working on effective anonymization methods DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 14
  • 15. Law & Ethics•  Privacy Law: –  Comply to EU directive 1995, 1999, 2002, 2011 (with explicit consent, limited time, explicit purpose, only data needed for that specific purpose etc.)•  Danish Data Protection Agency: –  Apply for permission to make research project involving personal and sensitive user data•  Facebook’s terms of (data) use: –  You cannot redistribute user data to any third party stakeholder –  User must be able to delete their data from the research project –  Keep info up to date….?? –  User’s friends data can only be used in the context of the user’s experience on your application…??•  Ethics: –  Is it okay to mine on data even with consent for research purpose? What are the arguments for and against? DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 15
  • 16. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 16
  • 17. Articles submitted/in preparation•  Bechmann, A. & Vahlstrup, P.: (in review) Digital Footprints: Studying private user data on Facebook, CHI’13, Paris.•  Bechmann, A & Lomborg, S. (in review): Open APIs as a method for data collection on social media, The information Society, pp.1-20.•  Bechmann, A (in preparation): Personal data attitudes and behaviors in the EU and US. DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 17
  • 18. Thank you!Digital Footprint: http://digitalfootprints.dkPeter VahlstrupLead programmerAarhus Universityimvpbv@hum.au.dkAnja BechmannHead of Digital Footprints Research GroupAarhus Universityabp@hum.au.dk DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS RESEARCH GROUP Peter Vahlstrup & Anja Bechmann 18