Facebook has cut a deal with political website Politico that allows the independent site machine-access to Facebook users’ messages, both public and private, when a Republican Presidential candidate is mentioned by name. The data is being collected and analyzed for sentiment by Facebook’s data team, then delivered to Politico to serve as the basis of data-driven political analysis and journalism.
The move is being widely condemned in the press as a violation of privacy but if Facebook would do this right, it could be a huge win for everyone. Facebook could be the biggest, most dynamic census of human opinion and interaction in history. Unfortunately, failure to talk prominently about privacy protections, failure to make this opt-in (or even opt out!) and the inclusion of private messages are all things that put at risk any remaining shreds of trust in Facebook that could have served as the foundation of a new era of social self-awareness.