Michael Zimmer writes:
Speaking of the research ethics related to automatically harvesting public social networking data, we are confronted this week with the story of Pete Warden, a former Apple engineer who has spent the last six months harvesting and analyzing data from some 215 million public Facebook profile pages.
According to Warden, he exploited a flaw in Facebook’s architecture to access public profiles without needing to be signed in to a Facebook account, effectively avoiding being bound by Facebook’s Terms of Service preventing such automated harvesting of data. As a result, he amassed a database of names, fan pages, and lists of friends for 215 million public Facebook accounts.
Warden has already done some impressive analysis of this data at an aggregate level, and I know researchers would love to get their hands on it. And like the “Tastes, Ties, and Time” Facebook project, Warden wants to release the dataset to the academic community.
But also like the “Tastes, Ties, and Time” project, Warden would be wrong to do so.
Read more on MichaelZimmer.org
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