Facebook famously has a lot of our data, but now one Wisconsin academic is trying to turn the tables on CEO Mark Zuckerberg, just a little bit.
Last Friday, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's Digital Commons launched the Zuckerberg Files. As the name suggests, it contains a complete digital archive of 'all public utterances of Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.' As the project is described:
The archive includes transcripts and bibliographic data of all publicly available content representing the voice and words of Zuckerberg, including blog posts, letters to shareholders, media interviews, public appearances and product presentations, and quotes in other sources.
The site was created by Michael Zimmer, an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. On Twitter last week, Zimmer said that the archive currently has 100 transcripts and 50 videos.
'The primary motivation is to try to get an understanding of how [Zuckerberg] talks about privacy,' Zimmer told Ars on Monday. 'Both the language and the framing and how he reacts to questions about privacy.'
While the public can search the archive and easily find links to videos and stories that are published elsewhere, accessing the university's copy requires a login account. The university requires limiting access to 'scholars doing research in a relevant area' as part of its adherence with the 'Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication.' Scholars can request a login account, however-Ars has submitted for and received one.
'I think Zuckerberg is important because he is Facebook,' Zimmer explained. 'He has such a level as part of this company. I compare it to Steve Jobs and Apple. So much of what that company was an extension of him and his worldview. That's why I want to get a better understanding of him. As long as I have access to some students willing to listen to Zuckerberg, we'll keep going. It's like a presidential library, where you try to capture every word that JFK ever said. That's what we're trying to do here.'
Zimmer and his team are putting in no small amount of effort. The professor described it as 'a very manual process' and said his team has done everything from traditional Web searches to combing Lexis Nexis archives, even going through Zuckerberg's Wikipedia entry line by line. So while the archive is only days old, the materials thus far date back to Facebook's early days in 2004. Zimmer said he's already started to draw some preliminary conclusions.
'One thing I noticed is more international trips to talk about the platform and the business, which I suspect is a reflection of how the company is changing,' he said. '[There's] the IPO and the more recent talk about immigration reform. He's started to move into some other arenas.'
Facebook did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment.