The danger of big data: Social media as computational social science

  • Andre Oboler Monash University
  • Kristopher Welsh University of Kent
  • Lito Cruz Monash University, Charles Sturt University
Keywords: social media, privacy, ethics, policy

Abstract

Social networking Web sites are amassing vast quantities of data and computational social science is providing tools to process this data. The combination of these two factors has significant implications for individuals and society. With announcements of growing data aggregation by both Google and Facebook, the need for consideration of these issues is becoming urgent. Just as Web 2.0 platforms put publishing in the hands of the masses, without adequate safeguards, computational social science may make surveillance, profiling, and targeting overly accessible.

The academic study of computational social science explains the field as an interdisciplinary investigation of the social dynamics of society with the aid of advanced computational systems. Such investigation can operate at the macro level of global attitudes and trends, down to the personal level of an individual’s psychology. This paper uses the lenses of computation social science to consider the uses and dangers that may result from the data aggregation social media companies are perusing. We also consider the role ethics and regulation may play in protecting the public.

Author Biographies

Andre Oboler, Monash University
Andre Oboler is a postgraduate law student at Monash University. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from Lancaster University and completed a Post-doctoral fellowship in Political Science at Bar-Ilan University.
Kristopher Welsh, University of Kent
Kristopher Welsh is a lecturer in the School of Computing at the University of Kent. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from Lancaster University.
Lito Cruz, Monash University, Charles Sturt University
Lito Cruz is a teaching associate at Monash University and a part time Lecturer at Charles Sturt University. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from Monash University.
Published
2012-06-17
How to Cite
Oboler, A., Welsh, K., & Cruz, L. (2012). The danger of big data: Social media as computational social science. First Monday, 17(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i7.3993