In the latest attempt to shed light on Facebook’s tracking and data collection practices, browser maker Mozilla has partnered with nonprofit organization The Markup.
The pair are recruiting for the Facebook Pixel Hunt study, asking users to download Rally – Mozilla’s first data-sharing platform, launched last year – and share their own browsing behavior.
“A tool like Rally can bring together the full force of communities of people to provide insight into one of the most opaque parts of the internet that has such a dramatic impact on our individual lives and on society,” says Ted Han, Rally product lead at Mozilla.
“This is a rare opportunity to lift the veil on Facebook’s tracking and data collection practices outside of Facebook platforms.”
The project aims to build on previous collaboration with the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University on news and misinformation about politics and COVID-19 in online services, as well as another study ongoing with Stanford University Graduate School of Business on news consumption and advertising impact.
“The internet and the world can’t wait for platforms to do the right thing, especially when so much depends on them,” Han comments.
However, earlier projects with similar goals failed. Last summer, for example, Facebook banned the accounts of New York University (NYU) researchers studying the micro-targeting of political ads at users through a project called Ad Observer, in a move condemned by the Federal government. US Trade Commission (FTC).
The company also shut down CrowdTangle, the social media monitoring tool that provided access to trending topics, public accounts and communities and viral posts on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit, and blocked ProPublica’s ad transparency tools. .
It also apparently changed its website code to prevent the automated collection of data on voluntary user posts, which significantly hampers the work of researchers such as The Markup’s Citizen Browser Project.
It remains to be seen whether Project Pixel Hunt will fare any better.