Compliance & Strategy

Facebook to open up transparency over political advertising

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Social media mogul Facebook has recently come under fire for partaking in concealed political advertising campaigns, and has vowed to be more transparent regarding this matter to its users after platforms like Mozilla and Greenpeace claimed the network was harassing the “good faith of researchers”.

Only two weeks ago Facebook made a move to cull the number of external web plug-ins throughout the platform in an attempt to restrict researchers’ abilities to accumulate political data from users via their exposure to Facebook adverts. The network claimed this was part of its greater agenda to limit the ins for cybercriminals to access private information – similar to what occurring during the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

However, earlier this week, Facebook altered its stance by saying it would enhance advertising API in late March, as part of its “broader efforts to protect elections this year.”

Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, said: “We know we have more to do on the transparency front, but we also want to make sure that providing more transparency doesn’t come at the cost of exposing people’s private information.”

The change in tactic was a result backlash from over 30 academics, non-profit campaigners, and freedom-of-press agents calling on Facebook to “cease harassment of good faith researchers who are building tools to provide greater transparency into the advertising on your platform.”

In an open letter to the social network platform, the group of individuals said: “By restricting access to advertising transparency tools available to Facebook users, you are undermining transparency, eliminating the choice of your users to install tools that help them analyse political ads, and wielding control over good faith researchers who try to review data on the platform.”

That’s not to say Facebook hasn’t implemented any measures of its own. In light of the May 2019 European Parliament elections, Facebook established its own ads transparency database in an attempt to limit the level of political disinformation.

In spite of this, the authors of the open letter believe Facebook’s new method did not “provide the level of data access necessary for meaningful transparency” in a similar fashion to third-party tools. Thus, they have urged the network to establish an alternative “open Ad Archive API”.

Facebook claimed, just last month, that it was in the process of building a public database of EU political adverts that would display the names and funding information of groups which paid for promotions. The information is to be held in the database for seven years, and would keep track of how many times the ads were viewed by Facebook users.

About Lee Hazell

Lee Hazell is a cyber security consultant with a keen interest in anything tech or security related. Follow Lee on .

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