Office of Undergraduate Research

The Zuckerberg Files: How Facebook Talks about Privacy

The dominance of social networking sites, such as Facebook, in contemporary life necessarily sparks unique issues in terms of information policy and ethics. As users' and scholars' we are increasingly confronted with new questions like: - What is the purpose/value of sharing information online? - What are reasonable expectations of privacy in social networking environments? - What kind of control should users have over their identity online? Their reputation? Their information? - What ethical responsibilities do social networking sites themselves have to ensure users are able to control their information flows online? - Should law or regulation exist to manage how social networking providers can access and utilize users personal information? An important step towards addressing these concerns is to gain a better understanding of how Facebook sees its own role in society, and how it frames these policy and ethical issues within its own worldview. This project will approach this problem through the lens of Mark Zuckerberg's own language. By gaining a better understanding of how Facebook's founder and CEO conceives of his own company's role in the policy and ethical debates surrounding social networking, we will be better suited to provide policy recommendations. The project will focus initially on the collection and archiving of all public comments made by Zuckerberg, and include the initial analysis of those words. In the end, a strong foundation will be built towards future research into the world of Facebook.

Tasks and responsibilities:

Through this project, the student can expect to engage with contemporary issues in information policy & ethics: social networking, information sharing, surveillance, and privacy. The student will also learn research skills related to the collection of primary source material, the construction of archives, and the analysis of texts. Student will assist in development of a framework for the collection and storage of source material; engage in intensive data acquisition including searching the Internet, news databases, financial documents for all public comments attributable to Mark Zuckerberg; and assist in the data entry/transcription of Zuckerberg text into a database system for qualitative and quantitative analysis.