TechCrunch reports that Facebook has been accused of blocking efforts to study its ad platform. I’d like to remind Mr. Zuckerberg that transparency is a big part of privacy.
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Mr. Zuckerberg claims he wants to transition Facebook to be a private company. However, it seems to me that whatever he and Facebook say in public, they do the complete opposite in private. If Mr. Zuckerberg wants us to take his company seriously, he needs to include transparency as part of his pledge. But so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Example: Facebook appears to make it difficult for researchers to study how political ads spread across its platform and what misinformation results from those ads. While Facebook does have a consumer tool on its website to see what advertisers have your data, it doesn’t play nice with researchers or politicians.
In a blog post, Mozilla wrote:
The fact is, the [Facebook ad] API doesn’t provide necessary data. And it is designed in ways that hinders the important work of researchers, who inform the public and policymakers about the nature and consequences of misinformation. It does not provide you with all ad data and allow you to filter it down using specific criteria or filters, the way nearly all other online databases do.
And since you cannot download data in bulk and ads in the API are not given a unique identifier, Facebook makes it impossible to get a complete picture of all of the ads running on their platform (which is exactly the opposite of what they claim to be doing).
We also don’t know exactly how much advertisers are paying to access and sell ads against our data, or how effective those ads are. Unless Facebook becomes more transparent, it is this author’s opinion that all of its privacy speech is for naught.