Facebook in Big Data – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Background

Facebook is a for-profit corporation and online social media and social networking service. The Facebook website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students. Facebook has affected the social life and activity of people in various ways. A popular network for the last five years with over 1.2 billion users worldwide, Facebook stores a gigantic amount of user data, making it a massive data wonderland, it allows people using computers or mobile phones to continuously stay in touch with friends, relatives and other acquaintances wherever they are in the world, as long as there is access to the Internet. It has reunited lost family members and friends. It allows users to trade ideas, stay informed with local or global developments, and unite people with common interests or beliefs through open, closed and private groups and other pages.

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Facebook: the big data specialist

Big data is a part of Facebook since the beginning. For many years to come this company will create big data, and will make use of it. Because the purpose of Facebook is to connect people the social network works with a series of algorithms – the famous EdgeRank among other – their role being to identify the connections and select the posts that will appear on a user`s newsfeed. Basically, the information is being used according to each member`s interest and whom they most interact to, also this information in used for publishing ads.

The multi-criteria search offered by this company (Graph Search) is available since 2013 for the users that. For example, individuals younger than 19 living in Bremen, Germany who study at Jacobs University Bremen, Class of 2018. Real time suggestions are being offered by Facebook, similarly to Google, Facebook also offers a filter system when you search something (city, gender, political or religious beliefs, etc.). Similarly, to this you have other features such as looking for a movie, a photo or a restaurant. The advertising service offered by Facebook is based of users interests and features in their profile.

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Opportunities and Threats

– the good –

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The internet is an open space designed by its own rules and Facebook became in the last years one of the most important players in this game. Over 1.25 billion people are active on Facebook and they can change it according to their common willingness. In other words, this means that one fifth of the world population builds its own community which fits every of its members and give them the power to interact with each other just by doing one click.

– the bad –

Facebook has a dedicated Data Science team which has as main task development of learning algorithms who are able to understand user’s behaviours and to sort them in different categories.

They have a personal webpage where they post updates and observations they made about the habits of the millions of people who are active on Facebook every day. The statistics run by this team are oriented on a large field of subjects. They are interested in any pattern that can be found in users’ activity within the platform: from political views to emotional stability or even the level of intelligence. For example, based on patterns matching, they are able to predict with few weeks before that a user will change his or her relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’.

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Maybe you wander why would invest a company as Facebook that much many and time in learning about the users.The most obvious answer is that all these statistics help them to target the advertisement which allows them to sell this service for a more expensive price. This comes also in help of the user as they are not spammed with advertisement that is out of their interest. On the other hand, Facebook could also have some hidden reasons to invest in this service. All this information would be of great concern for the governments (especially in countries with other political systems than democracy).

Could they use Facebook to find the people opposed to their views and even manipulate their moods?

– the ugly –

The sympathizers of social media always believe that the benefits far outweigh the hazards. The fact that Facebook is making communicating with friends and family easier than ever, no matter where they are, is astonishing,   but we must not forget that Facebook could technically sell data from a user`s account.

What would happen if government agencies had access to Facebook data to detect insurance or tax fraud ?

In a democracy-based society, at least up until the Snowden/NSA scandal, we thought we were immune to such practices. And it was a bit silly to have ever expected it to be manageable within fixed social and legal boundaries. There’s clearly a lot to be learned from studying the data generated by this company.

The ugly truth ?

Is the world obsessed with Facebook?

Preliminary Bibliography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook – Retrieved October 1th, 2016

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140716060957-64875646-facebook-and-big-data-no-big-brother – Retrieved October 3th, 2016

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130502052254-64875646-how-facebook-exploits-your-private-information?trk=mp-author-card – Retrieved October 3th, 2016

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140716060957-64875646-facebook-and-big-data-no-big-brother – Retrieved October 3th, 2016

https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/03/facebook-decade-big-data/ – Retrieved October 5th, 2016

Work distribution

All of us – Topic Selection

Alexandru Maiereanu – Information selection

Alexandru Glontaru – Information analysis

Alin Popa – Big Data reference

Tudor Maiereanu – Blog post 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Facebook in Big Data – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

  1. I really liked how you characterized Facebook’s pros and cons in the format “the good, the bad and the ugly”. I am really interested to know more about the data protection issue, as it has become a highly debated topic, the more people realize how their private information is being used.

    For two really interesting articles explaining why “Facebook knows us better than our therapist”, refer to:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/facebook-knows-you-better_n_6517518.html
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2015/02/24/big-data-why-facebook-knows-us-better-than-our-therapist/#30fd6be2192e

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Referring to your “but we must not forget that Facebook could technically sell data from a user`s account.” I really do not think this is not merely a possible scenario. This is happening, and there’s been many leaks and article that prove my point. Ever heard of PRISM? It is a program (run by the US National Security Agency, obviously) that has been in operation since 2007, which claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook, and other tech giants.
    (“Every breath you take // And every move you make // Every bond you break, every step you take // I’ll be watching you”)

    What Facebook and other tech companies are doing is a painfully disgraceful flaunting of user privacy, and even that is an understatement.

    More on the PRISM Pact:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/microsoft-facebook-google-yahoo-fisa-surveillance-requests

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    1. For those interested, an even more recent agreement is the so called AI Partnership, which the leading tech giants, i.e. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon launched sometime in September ’16. The nonprofit aims to “advance public understanding of AI” and to formulate “best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field.” (read: optimize your ads and stuff like that to surge their profits)

      Like

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