Facebook’s Data Science Team

Facebook denizens now occupy a digital content the size of the third largest country in the world – a whopping 900 million. Although some speculate that many of these sites go unused, the numbers are still daunting when you consider Facebook’s proximity to data and now, since the introduction of time lines, our chronologed history: graduations, weddings and baby photos, family trips, and retirement.

Surprisingly, Facebook has yet to do all that much with the data it has. This is discussed in an article by MIT which looks at the cultural cul-de-sac embedded in Facebook’s headquarters, an academic research group headed by Cameron Marlow. “The group Marlow runs has escaped the public attention that dogs Facebook’s founders and the more headline-grabbing features of its business. Known internally as the Data Science Team, it is a kind of Bell Labs for the social-networking age,” MIT writer Tom Simonite says. This Facebook research group, which is expected to double in size to 24 members by the end of this year, is privy not just to our time lines, but also data about users age, gender, email and even (if users choose) about their relationship status, all at the moment of sign-up.

MIT reports that in the last five months, “Facebook catalogued more than five billion instances of people listening to songs online.” Imagine what one could do with this data alone? Given the demands of going public, Facebook will have to make better, more creative use of our data, maybe, say compare a break-up followed with a slew of sad songs – a time when, at least, I have always been susceptible to retail therapy.

Why not? Other researchon sentiment analysis of twitter text and packet-data revealing a window into depressive behavior, points to a growing preoccupation with not just our data, but our psychological states. In addition to targeting products based on our mood, some researchers suggest we could use this data to report back to us about our mood.

With big data comes big responsibility “…Marlow is confident that exploring this resource will revolutionize the scientific understanding of why people behave as they do.” It’s also a way to make money and satisfy the growing number of disgruntled Facebook investors.