Harvard’s Privacy Meltdown, Revisited: Controversial Facebook Data Yield New Paper

Earlier this year, The Chronicle reported on a controversy that arose when a team of Harvard researchers downloaded some 1,700 Facebook profiles from one college class without asking the students’ permission.

So what can scholars learn from a giant archive of Facebook data?

This week the Harvard sociologists published some of their Facebook findings in a new paper that explores how people pick friends and what part friendship plays in spreading cultural tastes and ideas.

The researchers found that “friends befriended others with whom they shared interests,” but “they did not generally adopt new interests” because they had developed new friends, according to a news release from the National Science Foundation, which supported the research.

What’s more, the scholars report that “tastes in books don’t seem to influence Facebook friendship formation in the same way as tastes in music and movies.”

For a more detailed look at the study, check out this post on Ars Technica.

[The image above comes from Harvard's Kevin Lewis. Here's how he describes its contents: "College students' tastes and social networks on Facebook. Nodes represent students and lines represent Facebook friendships, where red nodes are students whose 'favorite music' includes classical/jazz artists and node size is proportionate to the quantity of classical/jazz artists the student lists."]

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