Digital Trace Data Collection for Social Media Effects Research: APIs, Data Donation, and (Screen) Tracking

Jakob Ohme, Theo Araujo, Laura Boeschoten, Deen Freelon, Nilam Ram, Byron B. Reeves, Thomas N. Robinson

Communication Methods and Measures

Digital Infrastructures, Mis/Disinformation

Digital Trace Data, Methods, Social Media

Digital trace data can change the study of misinformation, algorithmic bias, and well-being.

In this coauthored article, Deen Freelon joins with scholars across the United States and the Netherlands to discuss methods of digital trace data collection and measurement. Digital trace data (or DTD) are the tracks we leave in the snow of the digital spaces we occupy (e.g., cookies in your browser after an online shopping spree or the log data tracked by social media platforms). Although we commonly think of these kinds of data as privacy violations, they are also an opportunity for researchers to overcome the known limitations of platform-centric and user-centric approaches. Of course, collecting this data, organizing, analyzing, and measuring it in meaningful ways comes with its own challenges. Read on for an in-depth deep dive into the best practices for using DTD.