This week, a handful of academic research teams will gain access to a new Facebook tool designed to aggregate near-universal real-time data on the world's largest social network.
When it comes to who has access to Facebook's data, the company is still reeling from the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, in which a political consulting firm collected personal data from millions of ignorant Facebook users in order to create detailed profiles on potential voters. Over the next three years, the company shut down thousands of APIs and is only now beginning to restore broad access for academic research.
Given Facebook's history of privacy concerns, the new Researcher API comes with a few preliminary caveats. First, the API will be made available by invitation only to a small group of established academic researchers. In February 2022, the company intends to expand access beyond the initial test group, incorporating feedback from the test into a broader launch to all academics.