Facebook recently booted a handful of researchers from the NYU Ad Observatory off its platform for looking into its political ad practices. The social media titan did so by claiming that a browser plugin the researchers were using for their project infringed upon its users privacy, and pointed to its privacy agreements with the Federal Trades Commission as ammunition to back up its decision.
The platform was universally slammed by researchers and free-speech advocates for effectively shutting down the voices of those looking for skeletons in its closet. Now even the FTC itself has had its say on the matter, and it’s not happy with Facebook’s “inaccurate” citing of its consent decree with the FTC.
FTC flags Facebook fib
Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg himself to pan Facebook for the aforementioned banning and its subsequent using of the FTC to justify it.
“The FTC is committed to protecting the privacy of people, and efforts to shield targeted advertising practices from scrutiny run counter to that mission,” wrote Levine.
“Had you honored your commitment to contact us in advance, we would have pointed out that the consent decree does not bar Facebook from creating exceptions for good-faith research in the public interest,” he went on to write, explaining that the FTC supports efforts, like those of the banned NYU researchers, to “shed light on opaque business practices”.
Levine ends off the letter alluding to accusations many of Facebook’s critics no doubt have in mind: that the company might be using the guise of ‘privacy’ to prevent its dirty laundry from being aired.
“While it is not our role to resolve individual disputes between Facebook and third parties, we hope that the company is not invoking privacy – much less the FTC consent order – as a pretext to advance other aims.”