How to Design Data Access for Researchers: A Legal and Software Development Perspective

45 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2023

See all articles by Max Zeno van Drunen

Max Zeno van Drunen

University of Amsterdam - University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law

A. Noroozian

University of Amsterdam - University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law

Abstract

Public scrutiny of platforms has been limited by a lack of transparency. In response, EU law increasingly requires platforms to provide data to researchers. The Digital Services Act and the proposed Regulation on the Transparency and Targeting of Political Advertising in particular require platforms to provide access to data through ad libraries and in response to data access requests. However, these obligations leave platforms considerable discretion to determine how access to data is provided. As the history of platforms’ self-regulated data access projects shows, the technical choices involved in designing data access significantly affect how researchers can use the provided data to scrutinise platforms. Ignoring the way data access is designed therefore creates a danger that platforms’ ability to limit research into their services simply shifts from controlling what data is available to researchers, to how data access is provided. This article explores how the Digital Services Act and proposed Political Advertising Regulation should be used to control the operationalisation of data access obligations that enable researchers to scrutinise platforms. It argues that it is necessary to approach the operationalisation of data access regimes as not only a legal, but also a software design problem. This allows us to better understand how the development process for data access regimes should be organised to ensure data access obligations are operationalised in a way that meets the needs of the researchers that will use them. The article closes by exploring the legal mechanisms available in the Digital Services Act and proposed Political Advertising Regulation to exercise control over the design of data access regimes, and makes five recommendations for ways in which these mechanisms should be used to enable research into platforms.

Keywords: Platforms, Transparency, Data Access, Vetted Researchers, Digital Services Act, Political Advertising Regulation

Suggested Citation

van Drunen, Max Zeno and Noroozian, A., How to Design Data Access for Researchers: A Legal and Software Development Perspective. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4330544 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4330544

Max Zeno Van Drunen (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, 1001 ND
Netherlands

A. Noroozian

University of Amsterdam - University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, 1001 ND
Netherlands

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