Facebook Suspends ‘Thousands’ of Apps

Facebook has taken the move to suspend “tens of thousands” of apps that are in operation on its platform as it continues to try and stem what it suspects is the collection of large amounts of user profile data.

This move comes towards the end of a turbulent 2019 for the social media giant and as it tries to move on from the Cambridge Analytica scandal for which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved a $5bn fine last July. As a response to this scandal, when reports of it initially emerged, Facebook initiated an ‘App Developer Investigation’ in March 2018. Following the completion of the early stages of that operation 400 apps were flagged, according to Facebook “due to concerns around the developers who built them or how the information people chose to share with the app may have been used — which we are now investigating in much greater dept”.

In the most recent blog post in relation to this investigation, Facebook has revealed that “there is meaningful progress to report so far. To date, this investigation has addressed millions of apps. Of those, tens of thousands have been suspended for a variety of reasons while we continue to investigate.”

A number of applications have been banned completely from using the Facebook platform and a number of legal actions have been taken against companies including Rankwave, LionMobi, JediMobi and submitted a legal action against certain developers found to be using quiz applications to illegally obtain Facebook users’ data.

Facebook also said, in relation to the conduct of developers creating applications for its 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. They must also clearly demonstrate to people how their data would be used to provide them that experience.”

Cambridge Analytica was a UK based political consultancy firm that gained unauthorized access to the data of millions of Facebook users. The data was collected using an online quiz app to estimate a personality type. This was just one of a number of issues Facebook has encountered in relation to data privacy in the past two years.

Others include:

There has been no indication if any of the newly banned apps were misusing the user data that they were gathering. The investigation is ongoing.