Opsci is committed to protecting the data collected in the course of its research projects. As an institute specialized in the study of the digital public space, Opsci mainly collaborates with NGOs, foundations, scientific teams, and institutions on topics of public interest such as the climate crisis, ecological policies, and online democracy. Opsci uses new AI techniques to identify the main or emerging trends in public opinion.
Opsci's studies frequently focus on publicly accessible content on Very Large Online Platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram. This content may contain personal data as defined by the GDPR.
Opsci not only implements the major principles of the GDPR but also contributes to defining best practices for data processing, reconciling the GDPR with other regulations (Digital Service Act), and opportunities and risks related to the use of AI.
Opsci's policy is based on the major European principles described in art. 5 of the GDPR:
Opsci's studies focus exclusively on "publications" distributed and shared in the digital public space. These are contents accessible on the platforms and not limited to a predefined private circle of users.
Although the dissemination of this content is subject to minimal consent, in accordance with the GDPR, we assume that the publication and open dissemination of content on networks do not exhaust the issues related to personal data. This data may include personal identification elements (name or other data specified by the user) or information about a person carried by a third party.
Various measures make it possible to remove identifiable data or confine it to specific and documented uses. Opsci's studies are based on two treatments differentiated according to the account's status:
In 2023, regulations on data protection related to social media analysis remain unclear. There are still questions, in particular, about reconciling the GDPR with other fundamental principles (such as the right to information), and more recently, the new regulations of large online platforms.
The GDPR already provides a general exception for the processing of personal data for "reasons of important public interest" (Art. 6 & 9). All of our studies fall within this framework. However, the regulation concerning exceptions still needs to be implemented in the EU member states and, in this context, it is still difficult to consider "important public interest" as a basis for processing sensitive data for scientific research purposes (Wiewiorówski, 2020).
The GDPR also includes derogations from the fundamental principles of personal data protection if they are "processed for scientific or historical research purposes" and if the application of these principles "seriously hinders" such processing (Art. 89).
Opsci is fully committed to creating good practices adapted to this new field of research. We are particularly focused on materializing the balance between data protection and public interest. One of our main projects is to define clear criteria differentiating public figures speaking publicly from the vast majority of users whose identity and privacy must be protected.
Opsci is also closely monitoring the evolution of European regulation. The Digital Service Act notably provides for external access to platform data to be generalized when they present a "systemic risk", particularly in the field of disinformation (Art. 40). Opsci has conducted studies on online disinformation and the circulation of "fake news" (on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok), which fall within this framework. Fine analysis of disinformation requires the processing of identification data, particularly to reconstruct upstream forms of coordination.
Since 2021, Opsci has specialized in the use of new text analysis technologies using artificial intelligence. Our projects are based on automated classification by a BERT model. This type of model offers a fine understanding of the text beyond the counting of occurrences and words: it manages to identify recurring sentence structures, arguments and positions.
The rapid developments in artificial intelligence applied to the study of social networks raise new questions and provide new answers to the challenges of protecting personal data: