Updated: September 24, 2019 3:17:39 pm
Facebook revealed that it has suspended tens of thousands of apps associated with about 400 developers as part of its ‘App Developer investigation’, which first began when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke back in March 2018. Facebook had at the time said it would investigate how third-party apps were handling user data from the world’s biggest social media network.
The latest update continues give more public details on that ongoing review process. As a part of this, some apps have been banned completely on the platform, wrote Ime Archibong, Facebook’s VP of Product Partnerships in the blog post.
The post notes that Facebook “had initially identified apps for investigation based on how many users they had and how much data they could access.” This was later expanded to apps based on signals indicating potential for abusing Facebook’s policies.
Where Facebook has more concerns, the company conducts “a more intensive examination,” which includes a “background investigation of the developer and a technical analysis of the app’s activity on the platform,” notes the post.
Facebook says the investigation has spanned millions of apps and out of these “tens of thousands have been suspended for a variety of reasons,” and these are “associated with about 400 developers”. It is unclear how 400 developers were responsible for ‘tens of thousands’ of apps. Facebook has not given a list of developers whose apps have been suspended. It is also unclear if other apps by these same developers are still live on the platform.
Interestingly, Facebook insists that this suspension is not a confirmation that the apps posed a threat to users. It also appears that some apps were still in a testing phase when suspended by Facebook.
“It is not unusual for developers to have multiple test apps that never get rolled out. And in many cases, the developers did not respond to our request for information so we suspended them, honoring our commitment to take action,” explained the post.
Facebook said that one reason for banning the apps completely is “inappropriately sharing data obtained” from the network or any other “clear violation” of their policies. Facebook also said it has taken legal action when needed. One example for this is given against Rankwave, a South Korean data analytics company that failed to cooperate with their investigation.
It also took legal action against developers like LionMobi and JediMobi, which infected their users’ phones with malware in a profit-generating scheme. Facebook also sued two Ukrainian men, Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov, for using quiz apps to scrape users’ data off our platform.
“We have also developed new rules to more strictly control a developer’s access to user data. Apps that provide minimal utility for users, like personality quizzes, may not be allowed on Facebook. Apps may not request a person’s data unless the developer uses it to meaningfully improve the quality of a person’s experience,” Archibong wrote.
Facebook recently signed a new agreement with the US regulator Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over user privacy protection, which will also bring new oversight to app developers. Facebook says any developer not complying with their policies will be held accountable.
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