Facebook has clashed with NYU researchers on a project to investigate its political advertising.
Sarah Tew / CNET
Facebook said Tuesday that it had disabled accounts related to the New York University project that analyzed political ads on social networks. According to the company, researchers collected data from Facebook users without their consent.
Prior to the 2020 US presidential election, researchers launched a project known as New York University Abu Davi, making it easier for journalists, policy makers, and the general public to spot trends in Facebook’s political advertising targeting. As part of the project, NYU has enabled Facebook users to add plugins to their web browsers to copy ads they see on social networks and store that data in a public database. Browser extensions also collected user names, links to user profiles, information about why users are showing certain ads, and private information.
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But Facebook said researchers violated social network rules by retrieving data from users through “illegal means.” According to the company, the browser extension collected information “about Facebook users who did not install or consent to the collection.”
The NYU-Facebook clash emphasizes that social networks are trying to balance concerns about both privacy and transparency. Facebook’s political advertising targeting has been further scrutinized after Russia’s trawl used political advertising to disperse discord among Americans in the 2016 US presidential election. Social networks have created their own public database to search for political ads, but NYU said the tools they built have more capabilities. At the same time, Facebook has been accused of not doing enough to protect user privacy after the 2018 data scandal. The scandal involved a British political consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica, which collected data from up to 87 million Facebook users. I agree.
Read more: Facebook, NYU researchers fight for political advertising on social networks
Facebook also said it would block access to apps, pages and platforms related to NYU’s research projects, as data scraping would jeopardize user privacy.
“Although the AdObservatory project may be in good faith, the ongoing and ongoing breach of protection against scraping cannot be ignored and should be corrected,” Facebook Product Management Director Mike Clark said in a blog post. ..
NYU called Facebook’s actions “sorry.” “Our researchers are doing important and legitimate research, and the obstacles Facebook is in the way are disappointing and unjustified from our point of view,” NYU said in a statement. rice field.
Laura Edelson, a New York University researcher involved in the project, tweeted that her personal Facebook account was suspended and social network behavior was also hampering the team’s research on vaccine misinformation.
“The work our team does to make Facebook disinformation data transparent is essential to a healthy internet and healthy democracy,” Edelson tweeted Tuesday night.
Facebook’s actions have also prompted more regulatory demands to make online advertising more transparent. “It’s clear that Congress must act to make the world of online advertising clearer,” Virginia Democrat Mark Warner tweeted Wednesday.
For several years, we have called on social platforms such as Facebook to work with independent researchers who are working to improve the security of social platforms by exposing harmful activities. It’s clear that Congress now has to act to make the world of online advertising clearer. https://t.co/4c4AfF0BD0
Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 4, 2021
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