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

by Andre Oboler, Kristopher Welsh, and Lito Cruz

"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."