Facebook will automatically monitor the political expression of all of its adult US users – from what they put down on their form, to what news articles they ‘like’ or how they vote in online polls, and even who they mention in their posts – and then match the information up with the users’ age, gender and location, to get insight into the minds of millions of potential voters.
More than a third of all Americans log onto Facebook at least once a day.
“Given the volume of conversation around politics on Facebook, we believe this data truly represents what the American people think about the potential candidates. We’re excited to partner with ABC News and BuzzFeed News, who will both bring their unique journalistic perspective to this data,” said a statement from Andy Mitchell, Facebook’s Director of News and Global Media Partnerships.
ABC News will start using the data from Facebook as soon as next week as part of their 2014 Election Day coverage. It will also focus on possible 2016 presidential candidates.
“This rich trove of data will allow us to do just that — helping us identify the most important trends and the most stimulating conversations happening around the 2016 election cycle,” ABC news president James Goldston said in a statement, as quoted by Politico magazine.
BuzzFeed plans to use the data in its election stories, and feature the data in its news app.
“Facebook is going to be a central — maybe the central — arena in which political conversation happens in 2016. We’re thrilled to have a glimpse at what America is thinking, and excited to share it broadly with our readers,” claimed BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith.
A recent Pew Research survey showed that 39 percent of all Americans received their news from Facebook weekly, several times more than any other website on the internet – including newshounds’ favorite, Twitter.
Facebook has been working with pollsters since Barack Obama’s first election win in 2008, and political parties already pay the social network to bombard users with highly targeted adverts compiled from their profiles, which includes information on ‘likes’ and other recent activity.
It also provided excerpts from its Big Data for Politico magazine during the previous election cycle.
The California-headquartered company has assured its users that there is no threat of their data being leaked, as data “is gathered in an aggregated and depersonalized manner in a privacy safe way.”
This means the company provides the news media with large data sets which do not contain the names, addresses, or any other identifiable features of Facebook users.
But a study last year raised potential privacy concerns from Facebook’s adeptness at understanding its users from their non-explicit preferences, and its readiness to sell the data to others.
“Everyone carries around their Facebook ‘likes’, their browsing history and their search history, trusting corporations that it will be used to predict their movies or music tastes,” Michal Kosinski from the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the study, said at the time.
“But if you ask about governments, I am not sure people would like them to predict things like religion or sexuality, especially in less peaceful or illiberal countries.”