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Tools to understand and monitor the collection of your data by Facebook and Twitter

Fast Co. Design: Creative technologists are developing their own tools for investigating, nudging, and altering the world’s largest social network. “..To understand the kind of information the platform may have on you, and how it may use it, turn to Data Selfie, a project developed by the artists Hang Do Thi Duc and Regina Flores Mir last year with funding from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and the NYC Media Lab. The Chrome extension generates a “selfie,” or profile, of your Facebook activity and uses machine learning to analyze that behavior in a way similar to Facebook itself. Are your likes more liberal leaning? What does your behavior imply about your psychological profile? Data Selfie–which doesn’t actually record any data from you–offers a glimpse into the kind of behavioral profiling that’s come to light through new revelations about Cambridge Analytica and the leak of data of 50 million Facebook users. Check it out here

  • J. Nathan Matias, who founded the citizen behavioral science platform CivilServant at MIT and is now a postdoc at Princeton University, has blogged about his so-called “audits” over the past year on Medium–for instance, running his own experiments on how Facebook promotes images versus texts with colored backgrounds and an earlier experiment on the Pride reaction button. “How much can a single person learn about Facebook with a little patience and a spreadsheet?” he writes. “More than you might expect!” Matias’s posts include instructions on how to run your own Facebook audit, and he even offers to help you do the statistics or coding if you want to run your own test. “I have often argued that we need independent testing of social tech, especially when a company’s promises are great or the risks are substantial,” he writes. “Sometimes when I suggest this, academics respond that independent evaluations require long, complex work by experts. That’s not always the case.” Learn more here.
  • Ben Grosser, an artist and professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s School of Art & Design, has written about how these ubiquitous user interface elements deeply influence user behavior. He has also built several Chrome extensions that throw Facebook’s carefully honed algorithms into chaos–like lobbing a digital smoke bomb on your News Feed…also he has just launched a version of the Demetricator for Twitter–a reminder that Facebook isn’t the only social network worthy of our critical thought as users. Check it out here…”

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