FTC berates Facebook for ‘misleading’ comments on NYU researchers


Earlier this week, Facebook over his threats to cut a group of New York University researchers off his platform. The researchers were part of a project called the , who recruited volunteers to study how Facebook targets political ads on its platform.

In its decision to ban the researchers, Facebook repeatedly referred to its obligations to the FTC, saying it was acting against the researchers “in accordance with our privacy program under the FTC Order” – a reference to the company 2019 with the agency on lax confidentiality practices. But the actions of the social network were by the research community and free speech advocates, who have said society prevents legitimate research under the guise of “scratching”. Like Wired pointed out, the company’s deal with the FTC doesn’t even prohibit what the researchers actually did.

Now the FTC has , calling the company’s explanation for its actions “misleading” and “inaccurate”. In a scathing letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the acting director of the Consumer Protection Bureau, Samuel Levine, said he was “disappointed with the way your company has behaved in this matter.”

“The FTC is committed to protecting the privacy of people, and efforts to protect targeted advertising practices from scrutiny defeat that mission, ”Levine wrote. “If you had honored your commitment to contact us in advance, we would have pointed out 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, particularly around surveillance-based 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 the FTC consent order – as a pretext to move forward with ‘other objectives.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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