Lots of talk on the Internet this week about research -- from Twitter to Facebook to cinnamon cookies -- and you're the subject.
For starters, Twitter and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology on Wednesday announced a $10 million dollar deal that turns all the (public) tweets over to researchers in the university's new Laboratory for Social Machines.
A Wall Street Journal story announcing the project, points out:
The public nature of Twitter's content has been a goldmine for researchers, who analyze the data to study topics ranging from public sentiment on health and politics to information diffusion. Twitter has said approximately 500 million tweets are sent each day.
And you thought no one cared about the tweets about your lunch.
Facebook got in on the research chatter on Thursday, clarifying its policies for studying users going forward. The social network was criticized earlier this year when it revealed researchers had manipulated people's news feeds to study emotion.
In a post announcing the changes, Facebook's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer said the company had developed better guidelines for researchers, established a review panel, added a training program and established a research website where studies will be published.
The New York Times' story on the matter boiled it down this way:
In essence, Facebook's message is the same as it has always been: Trust us, we promise to do better.
Maybe that's enough to assuage many users' concerns. Afterall, my favorite example of (unscientific) people research from the week shows just how quickly people part with personal info for something free: Cookies!
Artist Risa Puno offered free cookies in exchange for sensitive personal information at a New York art festival, and 380 people took the bait. They let her have finger prints, home addresses, even the last four digits of their social security numbers. If they asked what she was going to do with the information, she wouldn't say, but referred them to a page of legal information that gave her right the display and share the personal data.
"It is crazy what people were willing to give me," Puno said, in a fun/frightening story published by Mashable and ProPublica.
The title of interactive art installation? "Please Enable Cookies." It seems research subjects, ahem, people, are more than willing.