Facebook has elected to give data from some users who took their own lives to researchers studying warning signs for suicide, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. The researchers are affiliated with SAVE.org, a national suicide prevention foundation, and the project is initially focusing on "at least 20 people in a Minnesota county who died by suicide." As a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg about its role in the initiative:
“Anything that can decrease the latency between someone needing help and getting help is beneficial,” said Frederic Wolens, a spokesman for Facebook, in a telephone interview. “We’re trying to really shorten that period of time, whether it’s Facebook intervening, or that person’s friends or suicide prevention organizations.”
It's unclear how if at all Facebook is anonymizing this data and what permission it or SAVE.org received from the victims' families to use the data in this way. TPM has reached out to Facebook and will update when we receive a response.
The effort was reportedly spurred on by the suicide of Aaron Swartz, 26, a prominent Internet programmer, entrepreneur and activist, who was found dead on January 11. Swartz previously publicly wrote about suffering from effects of depression.
Facebook in December 2011 unveiled a tool allowing users to anonymously report content they thought exhibited suicidal intentions posted by their Facebook "Friends," which Facebook follows up on and can decide to act upon, sending a user a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example.
(H/T: The Verge)