Earlier this week, Facebook about threats to exclude a group of New York University researchers from its platform. The researchers were part of a project called , who recruited volunteers to study how Facebook targets political ads on its platform.
In its decision to ban researchers, Facebook repeatedly referred to its obligations to the FTC, saying it had acted against researchers “in accordance with our privacy program under the FTC Order” – a reference to 2019. with the agency due to poor privacy practices. But the actions of the social network were by the research community and freedom of speech advocates, who said the company was preventing legitimate research under the guise of “scraping.” As Wired prominently, the company’s agreement with the FTC doesn’t even prohibit what the researchers actually did.
Now, the FTC has , the reference to explaining their companies’ actions was “misleading” and “incorrect”. In a sharply written letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Acting Director of the Consumer Protection Bureau Samuel Levine said he was “disappointed with how your company has acted on this issue.”
“The FTC is committed to protecting privacy people, and efforts to protect targeted advertising from scrutiny run counter to that mission, ”Levine wrote. “If you had complied with your obligation to contact us in advance, we would have pointed out that the consent regulation does not prohibit Facebook from creating exceptions for well-intentioned research in the public interest. Indeed, the FTC supports efforts to shed light on non-transparent business practices, particularly around surveillance-based advertising. While it is not our role to resolve individual disputes between Facebook and third parties, we hope that the company does not invoke privacy – much less the FTC consent order – as an excuse to achieve other goals. ”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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