Facebook and academics row over data access


A row has blown up between Facebook and academics over the use of its data for reporting trends on the social network.

Members of the Cybersecurity for Democracy team, based at New York University, tweeted they had had their accounts shut down.

Facebook said the tools they had used to gain access to its data violated user privacy.

The researchers said Facebook was now curtailing their work measuring vaccine disinformation, among other things

Laura Edelson tweeted Facebook had suspended the accounts of several people associated with the team, including her own.

“The work our team does to make data about disinformation on Facebook transparent is vital to a healthy internet and a healthy democracy,” she added.

Other academics replied expressing concern, with one saying the same thing had happened to them.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But Facebook product management director Mike Clark blogged research should not happen at the expense 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.”

The company offered researchers a number of “privacy-protective methods” to collect and analyse 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.

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