Prof receives $100k federal grant for ‘observing the world through the lenses of social media’

Campus Reform Reporter
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A professor at Indiana University (IU) has been awarded $100,873 in federal funds in to attempt to create technologies that would help scientists better use social media posts on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for observation.

A professor at Indiana University has been awarded a six-figure grant to create technologies aimed at helping scientists better observe posts on social media platforms, such as Facebook.

“Every day, millions of people across the world take photos and upload them to social media websites,” states the proposal, put forth by  Professor David Crandall who is an assistant professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at IU.

“This project is investigating the algorithms and technologies needed for mining these large collections of photographs and noisy metadata to draw inferences about the physical world,” it continues.

The six-figure grant for the project, entitled “Observing the world through the lenses of social media,” was awarded by the National Science Foundation on February 27.

According to the abstract, “the project is laying the foundation for using visual social media as a source of observational data for a variety of scientific disciplines.”

This proposal names history, social sciences, and biology as some of the disciplines that would theoretically benefit from such technology.

Neither Crandall or the National Science Foundation responded to multiple requests made by Campus Reform.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital-privacy watchdog group, however, expressed concern over what the professor's proposed technology could mean for privacy.

“Researchers should be very straightforward and transparent about how they intend to keep and use the data as well as to what extent they will protect the subjects’ privacy, for example, anonymization,” EFF spokesman David Maas told Campus Reform.

“Of course, there’s also the potential for this kind of research to be used by law enforcement and online marketers for purposes that would make most online users uncomfortable,” he added. “In the end, no one wants to live in a world where they’re afraid to post family portraits.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @oliverdarcy





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