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FTC rebukes Facebook for ‘misleading’ comments about NYU researchers

Earlier this week, Facebook announced its threats to disconnect a group of NYU researchers from its platform. The researchers were part of a project called , which recruited volunteers to study how Facebook targets political ads on its platform.

In its decision to ban researchers, Facebook has repeatedly referred to its obligations to the FTC, saying that it is acting against researchers “in accordance with our privacy program under the FTC order” – a reference to the 2019 company with the agency due to sloppy privacy policies. … But the actions of the social network were the research community and free speech advocates who said the company obstructs legitimate research under the guise of “scraping”. As Wired noted that the company’s agreement with the FTC does not even prohibit what the researchers were actually doing.

The FTC now has , calling the company’s explanation of its actions “misleading” and “inaccurate.” In a harsh letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Acting Director of the Consumer Protection Bureau, Samuel Levine, said he was “disappointed with the way your company has handled this matter.”

“The FTC is committed to protecting the privacy of peopleand efforts to protect targeted advertising practices from scrutiny are contrary to that mission, ”Levin wrote. “If you were to honor your obligation to contact us in advance, we would note that the consent decree does not prohibit Facebook from creating exceptions for good faith research in the public interest. Indeed, the FTC supports efforts to shed light on opaque business practices, especially with respect to observational advertising. While it is not our role to resolve individual disputes between Facebook and third parties, we hope the company does not invoke confidentiality – let alone consent from the FTC – as an excuse to pursue other goals. ”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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