Facebook is condemned by the U.S. Trade Commission for suspending researcher accounts

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The US Federal Trade Commission publicly condemned Facebook on Thursday for banning researchers from accessing its social media platform and “misleadingly claimed” that it did so in order to comply with privacy agreements with US agencies.

Facebook has pause This week is the account and page of a group of researchers from New York University who are studying their political ad targeting practices.It argues that it has taken actions to “protect people’s privacy” under the consent order It agrees Cooperate with FTC in 2019.

but In a letter The Acting Director of the FTC Consumer Protection Bureau, Samuel Levine, told Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg) that the social media company had not consulted with the agency in advance to determine whether it should Apply the statute in this way and mark its statement as “inaccurate.”

Levine wrote: “If you fulfill your promise to contact us in advance, we will point out that the consent order does not prohibit Facebook from making exceptions for good faith research in the public interest.”

“In fact, the FTC supports efforts to expose opaque business practices, especially around surveillance-based advertising.”

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

This quarrel marks the latest escalation of the tension between Facebook and FTC after the social media company last month Asked its new chairman, Lina Khan, a well-known critic of large technology companies, to withdraw from deciding whether to file an antitrust lawsuit against him.

The New York University Advertising Observatory launched an initiative last year to encourage volunteers to download browser extensions to enable their researchers to collect data about political ads shown to them on Facebook. The research pays particular attention to trends in advertising funding, positioning, and misinformation on the platform. About 16,000 volunteers signed up to participate.

However, Facebook claimed on Wednesday that academia used “unauthorized means” to scrape data, citing a consent order as part of a $5 billion settlement agreement reached with the FTC following the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

After their access to advertising data was cut off, New York University scholars accused Facebook of deliberately “silencing” them because they exposed problems on the platform.

Although FTC’s Levine stated that Facebook had “corrected the record” to acknowledge that the consent order did not force it to remove researchers, he added: “We hope that the company will not invoke privacy — let alone the FTC consent order — as a way to advance other The excuse of the goal… I am disappointed with your company’s performance in this matter.”

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