Facebook just lost some friends

Facebook disabled accounts for a team of NYU researchers that were trying to learn more about its ad targeting model.

Usually, Facebook is all about adding new users, but it seems not everyone is welcome in Zuck’s metaverse these days.

On Tuesday, the firm booted a team of independent researchers from NYU, claiming its data collection methods were compromising user privacy.

The researchers were digging into Facebook’s data…

… to better understand ad targeting on the social platform.

Last year, the team launched a browser extension called Ad Observer that allows users to share which ads are targeted to them.

With 16k people using the extension, the team found:

  • Misleading political ads were thriving on the platform in November 2020
  • Facebook had flaws in its political ad disclosures

More recently, the NYU team turned its attention to COVID — tracking false claims about the virus and vaccines.

Facebook has been under fire due to COVID concerns

President Biden recently called out the social giant, claiming the spread of misinformation on the platform has caused people to lose their lives.

Facebook argues it’s been doing its part to fight the virus:

  • The firm removed 14m posts about COVID labeled as fake news, and added a vaccine finder tool to help users find and book appointments

Critics are skeptical about Facebook’s reasoning

The NYU researchers claim they aren’t gathering any private information, and argue that it’s critical to have an independent party looking after Facebook’s ad targeting methods.

Facebook does allow researchers to use “privacy-protective methods to collect and analyze data,” but it’s hosted in an ad library controlled by, you guessed it, Facebook.

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