[open-science] Facebook shuts the gate after the horse has bolted, and hurts real research in the process

Andy Turner A.G.D.Turner at leeds.ac.uk
Mon Apr 30 10:59:12 UTC 2018


Thanks for the links Ale. I go along with your sentiment (I think). Decentralisation and things like Personal Data Stores/Services and the things you linked to are perhaps a good way forward for many and indeed the masses, but how likely things are to change, I don’t know.

Here is a link to a cut down version of something I wrote with help from Jisc which had linked to the policy review article Benedict linked to (but no longer does as I think that bit was cut):


It focuses on reasons for us not deleting data personal data with regard to maximising its utility for those uses we can agree we want it to be used for.

The piece mentions concerns about misuse of data collected about us, but not all of them and not in depth, but it poses an ethical question that my friend and mentor Stan Openshaw recognised as a Type 3 GIS Crime [1] . Below I list the 4 types:

A GIS type 1 crime occurs when a GIS application fails, for whatever reason, with a resulting waste of resource and perpetuation of less-efficient systems.

A GIS type 2 crime is when a GIS application is regarded as causing measurable harm owing to reasons associated explicitly with the GIS rather than with any other cause.

A GIS type 3 crime occurs when a GIS is not used in an application area where it should have been used and if, as a direct consequence, the poorer than-might-have-been-expected decision making causes harm.

A GIS type 4 crime relates specifically to those responsible for building an industrialised GIS research industry that achieves little of any real substance but which in the process makes it difficult or impossible for others to pick up the pieces and perform 'real' research later.

One key thing perhaps worth mentioning on this thread is that under GDPR (it is my understanding that) EU citizens are regaining ownership of their personal data. I’m not sure how this will work in practice (whether people can really expect organisations to delete their data on request) especially with organisations headquartered in other jurisdictions, but it is surely something of a challenge for globalised social media/tech corporations to organise to fulfil such requests. GDPR will divide us into a world split between those in the EU with personal data ownership rights (including the right to be forgotten) and those not. Governmental intelligence agencies are unlikely to delete file about us (assuming such things exists for the average Joe as well as the not so average Joe), and I don’t know how likely it is that commercial organise will either, but in the EU, if they are caught not doing this after being asked to, they are probably going to be hit with very large fines.

Anyway, the point I wanted to raise with this post and the article is that we perhaps want things archiving and to have control, but we really want data to be used to help us and our loved ones live longer and happier lives and that the dangers of misuse of data for nefarious purposes is perhaps diminishing (I am an optimist and have been accused of looking at the world through rose tinted spectacles).

In due course I am thinking of working with some of my Jisc data champion colleagues (and maybe others) to write a more extensive blog post covering the issues in more depth. Hopefully that will be on a blog that allows folk to comment/react.

[1] http://doi.org//10.1068/a250451<http://doi.org/10.1068/a250451>


From: open-science [mailto:open-science-bounces at lists.okfn.org] On Behalf Of Puneet Kishor
Sent: 25 April 2018 17:00
To: Alexandre Hannud Abdo <abdo at member.fsf.org>
Cc: open-science <open-science at lists.okfn.org>
Subject: Re: [open-science] Facebook shuts the gate after the horse has bolted, and hurts real research in the process

What Ale said.

“Off with their heads, off with FB’s heads,” said the Queen
Puneet Kishor
Just Another Creative Commoner

On Apr 25, 2018, at 11:36 AM, Alexandre Hannud Abdo <abdo at member.fsf.org<mailto:abdo at member.fsf.org>> wrote:
Ni! Hey Benedikt,

That's a really good point for discussion.

Ain't this is basically fighting for the right to continue to use unethically collected data for research?
On a much milder - yet much larger - scale, ain't it as if data from experiments on war prisioners was being shut down, and the research community was crying out about how bad it is to lose that data instead of pointing to the fact that war prisoners are being used for experiments?

Even if having the data could help us understand the consequences of these experiments, and even if that might eventually help avoid the worst of it, doesn't that still represent an approach where it is a priori OK to violate the prisoner's human rights?

Perhaps not, perhaps we still need more research to support the idea that we should not have one single entity that collects, distributes, analyses, decides on, auctions and manipulates the identity and information on the social - personal and political - lives of billions of people.
But perhaps most of this kind of research is just piggybacking on the ease to massively violate human rights in order to build an academic career and feel good by posing as a critic. Let alone the fact that most "critical" research about Facebook is actually doing the job for their marketing deparment, by "proving" to advertisers its effectiveness.

Facing that, and not needeing further proof that an oligopoly of information and identity platforms is not suitable for democracy, I'd rather focus my energy elsewhere.

That researchers and universities should be researching and promoting descentralized information and identity platforms [1<https://project.hubzilla.org/page/hubzilla/hubzilla-project>, 2<https://matrix.org/blog/home/>, 3<https://joinmastodon.org/>]; and figuring out how to do on-line social research under ethical conditions.


On Wed, Apr 25, 2018 at 1:18 PM, Benedikt Fecher <fecher at hiig.de<mailto:fecher at hiig.de>> wrote:
Below is a call for signatures from computational social sciences / Internet Researchers regarding the Facebook-API for research purposes. I thought it might also be of relevance for this community; at least as a point of discussion / interesting case for openness in terms of access to company data (in particular from platforms).

Background: In reaction to the Cambridge Analytica controversy, Facebook has recently announced a substantial tightening of access restrictions to the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) of Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms it owns. Other platform providers are likely to follow suit. The APIs are the means through which third parties access data on these platforms, such as when banking, for retail. Even dating apps like Tinder access Facebook data to verify the identity of their users.

Here is the call: https://policyreview.info/articles/news/facebook-shuts-gate-after-horse-has-bolted-and-hurts-real-research-process/786

Best regards,
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