Monday, May 24, 2010

Facebook: Relationship Predictor?

Further proof that Facebook holds an exorbitant amount of personal data, a recent article details the relationship patterns uncovered by Mark Zuckerberg's software engineering experiments. Using user data commonly collected by the site as part of a published "Newsfeed", Zuckerberg predicted the emergence of relationships based on factors such as conversations, tagged pictures, and mutual friends.

David Kirkpatrick further explores the connection between these social networking experiments and reality in his new book, The Facebook Effect. He writes:
As the service’s engineers built more and more tools that could uncover such insights, Zuckerberg sometimes amused himself by conducting experiments. For instance, he concluded that by examining friend relationships and communications patterns he could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now. To deduce this he studied who was looking which profiles, who your friends were friends with, and who was newly single, among other indicators.
While the realization that a software engineer could be privy to such personal indicators that your relationship is on the rocks is somewhat frightening, the issue exposes an interesting dilemma. Should you have access to such information about yourself and/or your partner? If Facebook developed a "Relationship Health Monitor" program, would you use it? Would it notify both parties, or only the one growing disinterested?

For now, hopefully the signs of a waning relationship become visible to both parties so that they are able deal with the situation appropriately, without relying on Facebook.

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