, ,

Is Facebook’s New “Download Your Data” Government’s Record Management Answer?

Update: There’s more than just two new features. You can see a good summary here as well: http://www.maclife.com/article/features/everything_you_need_know_about_new_facebook_features

If you weren’t able to watch today’s live Facebook announcement, “Zuck” listed two major new options that will start rolling out to Facebook. The first one is a new Groups function. I won’t go into the details here, but it does appear to give admins and groups more control over what’s posted, who’s allowed, who can see it, and a nice little feature called Group chat based out of your current chat toolbar.

The second one is more interesting–a new “Download Your Data” dashboard. It does exactly that. You go to your Account Settings and choose the option to download your data. After a short period of time it will download all of your Facebook status updates, photos, videos, and more…the firehouse. This is a major change for a company like Facebook and one that many people have been waiting for. But could it also be the answer to Government’s issues with figuring out the record management headache when it comes to Facebook? Or does it not matter?
I can see this being good in the sense that you can get everything you’ve posted. But some questions remain:
  1. How many times can I download my data…daily, monthly, yearly, one time?
  2. If I’m allowed more than one download do I only get the data that is new compared to when I last downloaded it or do I get everything all over again?
  3. The data is actually downloaded in a format that most people would use…looks like standard web pages. But what about developers that want the raw data behind it…the XML?
When it comes to records management, I’m learning that it’s not necessarily the “firehouse” that Records Management people are wanting. They want records that are organized based on topics, or events, or around certain themes. This is how paper copies of records have been treated…they get printed out, filed away, and labeled in a folder based on what they’re related to. But that appears nearly impossible when it comes to something like Facebook. You may be able to get the firehouse now but it won’t be organized in that fashion.
So. Does it really matter if we can get everything out of Facebook if it’s not suitable as a set of records in the traditional sense? Or will the firehouse suffice because it’s better than nothing at all? Or, do we even need records of Facebook interactions since they’re “conversations” and are not adding any new information that doesn’t already exist on a government site? If there is “new” information that would make sense to capture as a record, but if it’s only duplicating what already exists then it shouldn’t matter, right?
Lots of questions, lots of thoughts. Lots of discussion?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Jeremy Bertrand

It’s a great move in the right direction for those of us who need to archive this information. However I’ve yet to see what the data looks like so still have my fingers crossed that I don’t have to copy and paste posts into a word doc for records retention.


Definitely should make records retention easier for agencies Facebook pages. My guess is there will be companies that can help automate it or massage the format at a pretty low cost.

Ron Pringle

One question I haven’t seen answered is whether or not the download includes comments made by others on your posts, images, etc. At the local government level, many are looking to archive that ‘interaction’ rather than the data that they themselves post, to meet the various state records retention and FOIA laws.

Alexander B. Howard

Do you mean “firehose” of data instead of “firehouse?” Or is that a subliminal reference to losing documents due to water or fire damage? 🙂

Jaime Vogt

Agree with Jeremy and Ron, Might make it easy. The monthly copy and paste into word doesn’t seem very efficient. Basically we need info in a searchable format, so we could look for key words. And we don’t need to retain what we say (as it’s almost always recorded in some-other system as well, but what we hear from our stakeholders through facebook.

Scott Horvath

@Alex: Nice. I did mean “firehose”…my bad.

@Ron: From what I understand it does NOT include comments from other people…only what you put into the Facebook world. Also, I’ve heard it doesn’t include the new Groups comments even though those might be partially yours. So it’s slightly limited. Maybe that will change, maybe not.