Facebook and academics are at odds over the usage of Facebook data to report on social media trends. Members of the New York University-based Cybersecurity for Democracy team tweeted that their accounts had been suspended.
Facebook claimed that the technologies they used to get access to its data were infringing on users’ privacy. According to the researchers, Facebook has halted its efforts to track vaccine misinformation, along with other things.
Facebook has suspended the accounts of many persons connected to the team, including Laura Edelson’s. She added, “The work our team does to make data about disinformation on Facebook transparent is vital to a healthy internet and a healthy democracy.”
Other academics responded with alarm, with one claiming that something similar had occurred to them.
However, Facebook product management director Mike Clark stated in a blog post that research should not be conducted at the price of people’s privacy.
“The researchers gathered data by creating a browser extension that was programmed to evade our detection systems and scrape data such as usernames, ads, links to user profiles… some of which is not publicly viewable on the platform,” he said. “The extension also collected data about Facebook users who did not install it or consent to the collection.”
Researchers were offered a number of “privacy-protective methods” to collect and analyze data, Mr. Clark said. “We welcome research that holds us accountable and doesn’t compromise the security of our platform or the privacy of the people who use it, ” he added.
The researchers were notified last summer that their Ad Observatory browser plugin had broken Facebook’s terms of service and that they needed to stop collecting data from the site.
After repeatedly expressing its worries, Facebook said it had “no choice except to delete the researchers’ developer access, accounts, and applications,” according to BBC News.
Facebook is changing the way researchers utilize its tools, prompting the decision to disable their access. A new-look application programming interface will be available to researchers later this year (API).