MITACS-MoMiNIS Seminar Series (March 24, 2011)

[important]Title: Facebook as a data capture site: Techniques, Traps, Terms & Conditions
Speaker: Dr. Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
Time: Thursday March 24, 2:30-3:30pm
Organizers: Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd at the Social Media Lab and Dr. Jeannette C.M. Janssen and Evangelos E. Milios at the “Modelling and Mining of Network Information Spaces” Initiative at Dalhousie University
Sponsors: SSHRC & MITACS[/important]

This talk will give an overview of the sorts of social network data that are accessible through the Facebook API and some of issues that come with downloading and processing this data. In the first part of the talk, I review several pieces of software that allow for the download and capture of social networks, including NodeXL, NetVizz, NameGenWeb, iGraph and Pajek. I walk through different routines and cover efficiency through FQL queries. The talk will also walk through three recent examples of privacy leaks with the Facebook data (The “Taste, Ties and Time” data set, Pete Warden’s open profiles data and the Oxford 100 schools data set) and how privacy issues inhibited their full use. I tie this to the evolving developer terms of use on Facebook, as well as some of the other emergent API issues (such as Twitter’s recent decision to no longer whitelist accounts).  My intention is to end the talk by reinforcing the importance of careful and minimal data collection efforts rather than a cavalier approach indifferent to the risks of real world data. I also wish to make an appeal to technical fields whose ethics procedures tend to be inadequate for this sort of semi-private and sensitive data.


Bernie Hogan is a Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute. He specializes in novel methods for online data capture and analysis, especially via social media. Recent work has focused on the capture analysis of Facebook networks, particularly through his application namegenweb, which downloads a social network for visualization in network programs such as NodeXL. Past work included an online audit study of racism on Craigslist, pen and paper methods for visualizing social networks, the analysis of profile photos and techniques for online surveys of spouses and partners. Bernie received his dissertation from the University of Toronto in 2009 under Barry Wellman. This thesis won the Dordick award for Best Dissertation from the Communication and Technology section of the International Communication Association.