NEA taking the past into the future

SAA advocacy: Downloading Archives on Facebook

2015-08-13 3:07 PM | Michelle Romero

Dear NEA,

I was excited to see the letter sent to Facebook by Kathleen Roe, President of SAA. The letter asks Facebook and its Board of Directors to provide users the ability to download their content for archival purposes. Kudos to President Roe and the many who collaborated to bring this forward.

It is great to hear a proactive archival voice on important topics like public access to personal content existing in proprietary or public frameworks.

Jennifer Gunter King

NEA Vice President/ President Elect


(Sent on behalf of SAA President Kathleen Roe)

Mark Zuckerberg and Members of the Facebook Board of Directors:

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) is North America’s oldest and largest national archival professional organization. Our profession is dedicated to documenting the activities of institutions, communities, and individuals in order to provide authentic and reliable primary sources to researchers. This letter concerns the ability to download archives for pages created on Facebook.

Facebook is an incredibly important platform for documenting the lives and activities of more than a billion people around the world.[i]  We commend you for enabling users to download their “archive” periodically from Facebook. This archive includes a user’s messages, chats, likes, searches, photos, videos, and more.[ii]  It is conveniently packaged as a zip file, which contains commonly understood file formats that can be viewed with a web browser. This data is of great use to archivists because it allows donors to easily collect their Facebook activity when they are donating their materials to an archive. The data presents a unique snapshot of the individual’s activities on Facebook. Visitors using the donated materials in an archive can view this content in the context of other materials. Most importantly it is authoritative because it comes directly from Facebook and the donors themselves.

As you know Facebook users often create pages for their businesses, organizations, places, community groups, and more. Per your guidelines,[iii] Facebook pages are administered by an authorized representative of the entity in question. When an entity such as a business or community group is donating materials to an archive, it would be extremely useful if donors were able to download the contents of their pages so that the contents could be included with the donated materials. Unfortunately this function is not currently supported. In addition, Facebook’s terms of service prevent this content from being collected without Facebook’s permission (see section II.C in Facebook’s Pages Terms).

SAA’s members strongly encourage you to add functionality that allows a page owner to download the contents of his/her page(s). This would allow archival institutions to accept donations of this material so that it can be made part of a collection and be made available to researchers who are examining other materials from the donor.

We believe that Facebook is a platform that offers an unprecedented ability for users to make their voices heard, to organize, and to effect change in their lives. As archivists we are dedicated to selecting, preserving, providing access to, and ensuring responsible custody of primary resource materials related to our diverse communities. We believe that the content in Facebook pages that has been managed by particular organizations, communities, and individuals will prove to be an indispensable part of that record.


Kathleen D. Roe

President, 2014 – 2015


cc:           Trevor Alvord, Chair, SAA Web Archiving Roundtable

                Kate Stratton, Vice Chair, SAA Web Archiving Roundtable

                Bethany Cron, Chair, SAA Records Management Roundtable

                Brad Houston, Immediate Past Chair, SAA Records Management Roundtable

                Robert Spindler, Chair, SAA Congressional Papers Roundtable

                Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director






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