20 February 2012

PeteSearch: “Why Facebook's data will change our world”

This is the first time in history that most people are creating a detailed record of their lives in a shared space. We've always relied on one-time, narrow surveys of a small number of people to understand ourselves. With Facebook's data we have an incredible source that's so different from existing data we can gather, it makes it possible to answer questions we've never been able to before. Pete Warden

That sounds good on the surface, except… Like the author admits, not everyone is on . In fact, according to the statistics published by Socialbakers, penetration in the United States is hovering around 50% for the last couple of months. Penetration in Asia and Africa is still extremely low, around 5% of the total population. But user numbers aside, relying solely on Facebook data for any kind of study or scientific analysis introduces a dangerous bias: by ignoring non-users you are actually discarding the people who don’t have access to the Internet, who probably make up the majority of people not on Facebook. That may be well and nice for advertisers, but not if we really want to better understand ourselves on any level, from city to country to the whole world.

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