After a report that large numbers of the data from Facebook users may have been compromised, many people took to the Internet to try to find evidence of that rumor.
As a result, a lot of users started looking at maps based on how many areas people logged into Facebook are currently accessing.
In particular, one website called Everywhere, based in Berlin, Germany, received thousands of page views on Wednesday morning as people tried to check to see if their Facebook account was logged in to Everywhere, which according to its website, is a “data-driven and user-centric startup platform built with the mission to enhance the user experience and provide insight for businesses.”
What some people missed is that EVERYWHERE’s data is inaccurate, because the company stopped collecting Facebook data in 2010, four years before Facebook’s IPO, according to its founder and director, Thomas Ullmann.
“The older we are, the less we use Facebook,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
“It’s a data dump,” he said of the statistics, as shown on his website.
The report he referenced was a Medium post written earlier this week by David for the cybersecurity firm Mimecast, based in Singapore. According to his calculations, based on publicly available data, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have Facebook accounts but don’t use the social network regularly. David used data in a 2011 article published in The Economist and Facebook’s Social Graph.
At first glance, David shows that the global population is 2.23 billion, an estimate based on the World Bank’s World Development Indicators for 2011. The Cold War data translates to China and the U.S. having 2.1 billion and 2.27 billion people, respectively. But, David clarified on Medium, that the data and methodology are off.
The world population was not updated for 2002. Another basic problem with David’s data: He estimates the numbers by looking at the World Bank and U.S. Census data. But the World Bank’s population estimate comes from its World Development Indicators for 1985, which wasn’t updated until 1992, the same year that the U.S. census was.
David himself acknowledges this issue when he includes a disclaimer in his post: “While my main source of data is the World Bank and the U.S. Census, there are other reliable estimates that I think are broadly comparable,” he writes.
More to the point, David said that a scenario his post imagines — 1.5 billion people logging in to social media services without ever using them on a regular basis — is pretty unlikely. “It’s not something people would actually do to look for that. That just seems crazy,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “You could already find a billion people, for instance, on Facebook’s mobile application … for about $1 a month.”
David did concede that he’s looking at a pretty small population of people who aren’t using social media, but he wasn’t surprised by the results. “What this all comes down to is a case of simple groupthink,” he said. “I think that groupthink occurs from companies like Mimecast, where you focus on the biggest potential and you disregard what’s actually happening.”
When asked why a company would ignore the real data and spend time calculating speculative numbers, David had a simple response: “Haven’t we learned anything from the many, many, many instances of hackers stealing users’ data?”