Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps Over Data Privacy

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – In the ongoing fallout over its 2018 data privacy scandal, Facebook announced Friday it has suspended tens of thousands of apps as it investigates how they use member data.

“In many cases, the developers did not respond to our request for information so we suspended them, honoring our commitment to take action,” Facebook said in a blog post Friday. “In a few cases, we have banned apps completely.”

The announcement comes as the Menlo Park-based company faces scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers as well as a multidistrict class action seeking billions of dollars in damages for letting third parties, such as Cambridge Analytica, access users’ private data.

In 2018, it came to light that Cambridge Analytica obtained 87 million users’ private data through a quiz app, that Facebook-associated apps can obtain the personal data of a user’s friends without their permission and that Facebook shared user data with device makers and business partners without making the arrangement obvious to users.

The tens of thousands of suspended apps, some of which were still in the testing phase, are associated with 400 developers, according to Facebook.

The company said it has also permanently banned some applications, including the myPersonality app, which had its access revoked in August 2018 for failing to submit to an audit and for sharing data “with limited protections in place.” That app was created by British researchers but not involved in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook’s push to clamp down on apps that violate its data policies has already sparked lawsuits, including one filed Thursday by an Australia-based developer that claims its access was wrongly revoked by the social network on Aug. 30.

Stackla, which says it depends on access to Facebook and Instgram to track social media content about its customers’ brands, said Facebook wrongly suspended its apps based on false allegations in a U.S. trade publication. Stackla was accused of “scraping” data on Instagram, including user location information, a claim the company strongly denies.

In its 30-page complaint, Stackla says it “facilitates the consent process” to let its customers “legitimately acquire the rights to the publicly available content” in accordance with negotiated terms of use.

Facebook has also brought litigation against companies for allegedly violating its data policies.

In May, the social network filed a lawsuit in California state court against Rankwave, a South Korean data analytics company that refused to cooperate with Facebook’s investigation into its data practices. Last month, the company sued Hong Kong-based LionMobi and Singapore-based JediMobi in federal court for infecting users’ phones with malware to generate fake user clicks on Facebook ads.

In July, Facebook was fined a record $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission, and agreed to a set of new requirements for app developers, including a condition that developers certify compliance with Facebook policies each year.

Facebook said in its blog post Friday that it is “far from finished,” adding that it has “improved the ways we investigate and enforce against potential policy violations that we find.”

 

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