During a panel discussion on the second day of last October’s DRIVE conference, one of the panel members mentioned that it’s possible to learn which of your constituents have “liked” your fan page on FaceBook. The mechanics of it went over my head — I don’t recall if it involved developing an application or scraping data some other way. Anyway, the discussion veered in the direction that doing this was crossing some sort of line.
I’m not sure about that. On one hand, you need to remember your responsibility to donors to operate in the least wasteful way possible. Getting smarter about identifying people who feel an affinity with your institution or cause is part of that.
On the other hand, it’s hard to justify making it a priority to scrape data from external sources if you’re doing a lousy job of using your much more valuable internal data.
Let’s get the internal part right first, and explore the ethics of casting a wider net later.