Privacy Matters: Data for Good

By Laura McGorman, Data for Good

In 2017, we launched Data for Good with the goal of empowering partners with data to help make progress on major social issues. While this work has life-saving potential, it’s critical that we protect people’s privacy while sharing data. That’s why we put mechanisms in place to protect your information when we share it and give you control over your data. 

Initially, we only shared certain Data for Good mobility datasets with trusted partners like academics, researchers and humanitarian professionals, and we built tools to help advance their work. We’ve since created a differential privacy framework that further protects the privacy of individuals in aggregated datasets by ensuring no one can identify specific people in these datasets. This new framework allows us to make new datasets available publicly to help inform the public sector response to humanitarian crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Who sees my information and activity?

Data for Good shares certain protected datasets with our network of trusted partners. Research partners enrolled in the Data for Good program only have access to de-identified information from Facebook. (Updated on March 1, 2021 at 10:30AM PT to clarify how survey and location information are shared.)

Some datasets are shared publicly, but these are formatted to help prevent re-identification, while preserving insights that are useful in responding to crises. For example, datasets that include location information are aggregated in a way that protects the privacy of individuals by using techniques like spatial smoothing to create weighted averages and avoid using map tiles where very few people live. And for public datasets on mobility, we use our differential privacy framework, which takes into account the sensitivity of the aggregated dataset, and adds a random number of additional observations to each map area to ensure no one can re-identify users. 

What choices and controls do I have?

You can decide if you want to share your location data. The location data used in Data for Good maps is the same information that allows us to show you locally relevant content on Facebook, and you can choose whether you want to share that information in the Location History setting. You can also choose whether you want to participate in surveys, like our research partners’ symptom survey.

How does Data for Good impact data collection and ads?
We don’t collect any additional data for Data for Good. Data for Good simply aggregates data we collect from our apps and shares it in a de-identified way to help researchers, academics and others address humanitarian crises and social issues. 

Some data used in Data for Good is the same data that we use to personalize your experience on our apps and show you more relevant content and ads. For example, if you choose to share your location information, that information may be used in a Data for Good map or dataset, but its inclusion in Data for Good does not impact the ads or content you see on our apps. 

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