In DepthSocial Science

Privacy concerns could derail Facebook data-sharing plan

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Science  27 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6460, pp. 1360-1361
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6460.1360

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Summary

A novel collaboration designed to give researchers access to information on Facebook's 2 billion users could unravel over delays in preparing the data for release. A dozen research teams studying whether the ubiquitous social platform is helping sway elections and undermine political institutions around the world has been promised the website addresses that Facebook users have publicly shared, some characteristics of those URLs, and aggregated information about the sharers, including their age, gender, location, and political leanings. But that research, funded by a consortium of foundations, is not yet underway, and next week the funders are expected to suspend their support because many of the data have not been released. Facebook decided to adopt a rigorous statistical technique known as differential privacy to ensure that individual users cannot be identified. But the company is still figuring out how to apply differential privacy to all the data, and it's not clear when—or whether—the scientists will ever have access to them.

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