Facebook Inc. is demanding that a New York University research project cease collecting data about its political-ad-targeting practices, setting up a fight with academics seeking to study the platform without the company’s permission.
The dispute involves the NYU Ad Observatory, a project launched last month by the university’s engineering school that has recruited more than 6,500 volunteers to use a specially designed browser extension to collect data about the political ads Facebook shows them.
In a letter sent Oct. 16 to the researchers behind the NYU Ad Observatory, Facebook said the project violates provisions in its terms of service that prohibit bulk data collection from its site...
Rebekah Tromble, a George Washington University researcher who participates in that company-approved program, said Facebook deserves credit for its own research initiatives, but added that she disagrees with its action against the NYU project.
“There’s far too much critical information closed up behind Facebook’s walled garden,” said Ms. Tromble, director of George Washington’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. “And efforts like the Ad Observatory play a critical role in breaking down those walls.”