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Facebook ad Library Failed to Serve its Purpose: Experts

Mozilla researchers managed to download the information they needed on only two days (worth of ads) in a six-week span because of bugs and technical issues

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FILE - Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

Researchers and experts have slammed Facebook for making its Ad Library — meant to bring a new level of transparency to online ad buys — riddled with errors and technical glitches that make it virtually unusable.

In a statement shared with IANS, US-based non-profit organization said on Saturday that it is disheartening to hear that Facebook’s Ad Library has been hobbled by technical limitations and errors.

“While we commended Facebook in March for establishing the database, we noted back then that the company needed to take additional steps to ensure the Ad Library was both comprehensive and effective”, said Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programmes.

“Unfortunately, it seems the Library has instead failed to serve even its basic purpose as a research tool,” she added.

The New York Times this week reported that Facebook’s Ad Archive does not meet even the barest needs of researchers and data journalists.

Facebook, Data, Privacy
FILE – The entrance sign to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Oct. 10, 2018. VOA

The product failed in ways that would be humiliating for a company the fraction of Facebook’s size, said the report.

With each search limited to 2,000 results, the researchers needed to do 1,900 searches to collect all the data from Facebook Ad Library.

Also Read: Twitter Revenue up 18%, Users Grow in Q2

Mozilla researchers managed to download the information they needed on only two days (worth of ads) in a six-week span because of bugs and technical issues.

“Facebook has become one of the most important social forums of the 21st century. This means that people deserve to know what ads are appearing on the platform, whom these ads are targeting, and where they appear,” said Lopez. (IANS)

Next Story

Facebook Offers Help To India On Fake News Traceability On WhatsApp

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country

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Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
Over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy. Pixabay

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country, without any reference towards tracing the origin of the WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp had categorically said in the past that the government’s demand to trace the origin of messages on its platform is not possible as it “undermines the privacy of the people”.

Clegg who was the UK’s former Deputy Prime Minister before joining Facebook, visited India last week and met several senior government officials, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and offered to assist law enforcement agencies in all possible ways like Artificial Intelligence-driven data analytics and access to “meta-data”.

“Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick’s meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message. Pixabay

Last December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The proposed regulations require a company to “enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies”.

The end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign.

The mobile messaging platform with over 400 million users has already called the proposed changes “overbroad”.

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused,” a company spokesperson had earlier said.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has over 300 million users in India.

WhatsApp in February stressed that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of the app in its current form.

“Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s Head of Communications, had told IANS.

Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Facebook has filed a petition to transfer the case looking at enforcing traceability on WhatsApp to the Supreme Court. It is currently sub judice in the Madras High Court.

Tamil Nadu, however, is aiming to get Facebook’s transfer petition dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras recently stressed that the issue can be easily resolved without diluting end-to-end encryption and affecting the privacy of users.

“If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible,” said V. Kamakoti.

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When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message.

So the message and the identity of the creator can be seen only by the recipient.

“When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient,” he said, adding that as per the court ruling, those who forward a harmful message can also be held responsible in certain cases. (IANS)