Published by LawTechie - January 17, 2012 - LawTechie

FacebookAs privacy and internet law goes, I use “data” in the loose sense — this story was scooped by which titles its article “Facebook Gives Politico Deep Access to Users’ Political Sentiments.” Nevertheless, I would argue that it is far from misleading to consider users’ political sentiments to belong to the general array of private user data (private is when users actively choose not to share such sentiments outside of their close personal circles, as is the case here):

A partnership between Facebook and Politico announced today is one of the more far-reaching efforts. It will consist of sentiment analysis reports and voting-age user surveys, accompanied by stories by Politico reporters.

Most notably, the Facebook-Politico data set will include Facebook users’ private status messages and comments.

Facebook’s response is that the information sharing process is entirely automated and that, therefore, no human employees will read users’ posts. To wit:

Rather, every post and comment — both public and private — by a U.S. user that mentions a presidential candidate’s name will be fed through a sentiment analysis tool that spits out anonymized measures of the general U.S. Facebook population.

Of course we are again reminded that private user data is not so private (perhaps users don’t want their anonymous likes and dislikes, and political trends reported and analyzed; or perhaps the fear of hacking or poor employee management by Facebook with regard to its wall of automation will prevent some users from actively voicing their political thoughts).

Certainly this new Facebook-Politico offering does not meld well with recent reports of the Department of Homeland Security’s program to monitor journalists and bloggers….

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


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