Social Data Donated to Internet Archive

April 25, 2018

The plot thickened around Facebook’s user-data sharing practices when it was revealed they gave access to social-network search platform Profile Engine. Now, the company itself announces, “The Profile Engine Has Now Been Donated to the Internet Archive.” The post relates the company’s perspective on its subsequent dispute with Facebook, then explains why they are making this donation. It asserts:

“We sued Facebook, fought hard in a David and Goliath battle and won a good settlement. One day, maybe we’ll have time to tell the whole story – you’d be utterly shocked what goes on inside Facebook – what you’ve already heard is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have a Facebook account, we strongly recommend that you delete it completely, without delay. Learn more about Facebook.

We also noted this statement:

“We are freely and lawfully transferring this database to the Internet Archive (archive.org) as they have a long track record as a suitable, responsible long term custodian and we have the legal right to do so. “Making this data freely available and preserving it serves many purposes. Here are a few:

* Helping to reunite old friends with powerful search tools (Facebook don’t provide powerful search tools because if you have to search through hundreds of pages of profiles then you view more ads than if the tools take you straight to who you want).

* Helping you to find and meet new people with common interests

* Exposing the interests and group memberships of politicians and public figures (What did they really like ten years ago before they were famous?)

* This snapshot of the early days of social networking will be invaluable to Genealogists, Social Historians and perhaps even Archaeologists in ten, fifty or even 1000 years time.

* Most importantly, this will break Facebook’s monopoly over social data. People chose to make this data free and public, yet Facebook still charge for it. Not any more!”

The balance between privacy and rights to information seems to get trickier every year, and many are vexed that the Profile Engine was allowed to collect user profiles in the first place. Whether the value of this archived information outweighs the perceived violations of trust remains to be seen. For its part, Profile Engine asks us to use this data “responsibly and respectfully.” Eyerys once reported the platform to be partly owned by the Auckland University of Technology when it began as a Facebook search tool. Profile Technology was founded in 2007, and is based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Cynthia Murrell, April 25, 2018

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