Facebook Data Mined in Aid of Suicide Prevention

It’s no secret that the owners of Facebook have access to one of the largest collections of human information that the world has ever seen, and it’s growing every day. How this information is used, and by whom, is a topic of heated debate.

In response, suicide researchers recently declared that analysing the Facebook interactions of people who have ended their own lives might be able to help us identify warning signs.

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As a result, Facebook is handing over some of that data to independent researchers, SAVE . To begin with, researchers are expected to dive into data gathered from “at least 20” individuals from Minnesota, USA, who have committed suicide.

SAVE also plans to investigate finer details such as the length between posts and the sort of language used in the updates.

This is not the first time that researchers have investigated the Facebook accounts of people who have committed suicide, but it is the first opportunity they have had to gain access without directly contacting the families and friends left behind.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has made efforts in the area of suicide prevention. Back in 2010 the social network worked with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by allowing friends to flag posts that were potentially suicidal in nature.

When flagged, an email would immediately be sent to the poster urging them to contact a suicide hotline. How well this system worked is unclear, but Facebook’s current campaign with SAVE is unique in that allows researchers direct access to suicide victims’ private details, raising further questions about user privacy rights.

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