Facebook announced in a blog post on Friday that it has suspended tens of thousands of apps from the platform for a multitude of privacy reasons .
The suspensions and removals have happened as part of an ongoing investigation into how developers gather, utilize, and manipulate user data, which the company started after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It has also come to light that the social media giant is home to more problematic apps than what had previously been imagined.
The Cambridge Analytica debacle uncovered how information from millions of Facebook profiles was clandestinely utilized and manipulated to influence opinion during Brexit and the 2016 US election, resulting in political turmoil, probing investigations and a fine of five billion dollars imposed against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission in July 2019. Facebook will further be held to a new set of prerequisite standards to bring oversight to app developers, requiring them to comply with policies and undergo annual certifications.
Facebook has stated “App developers remain a vital part of the Facebook ecosystem. They help to make our world more social and more engaging. But people need to know we’re protecting their privacy.” Unfortunately all of Facebook's banner calling about protecting our privacy has come somewhat a day late and a dollar short for many former users like myself.
In all fairness, and to their credit, Facebook has banned apps like myPersonality, the likes of which have refused to cooperate with the company’s audit and reportedly shared profile information with researchers and companies with little to no privacy security in place. It has also taken legal action against the data analytics company Rankwave, which is a South Korean firm that failed to comply with its investigation.
There is also pending legal action against companies like LionMobi and JediMobi, companies that used apps to infect users phones with malware to generate profit and against two Ukrainian men for using quiz apps to scrape user data from Facebook. Remember all those goofy quizzes that everyone kept doing? I tried speaking out against those things before but no one listened, or took what I said seriously.
The increased scrutiny comes after the FTC fine and as dozens of US states have announced they will launch antitrust and privacy investigations into Google and Facebook. Several presidential candidates have also called for Facebook to be broken up. This is partly where Facebook comes in a little late in showing care for user privacy. Only after they were hit where it hurts, in the wallet, did they start becoming more proactive to protect their users privacy.
Facebook further stated that it is “far from finished” investigating and it is expanding a team dedicated to investigating these violations, restricted the APIs used to connect to Facebook and set more specific policies around developing on Facebook.
“As each month goes by, we have incorporated what we learned and re-examined the ways that developers can build using our platforms,” Facebook said. “We’ve also improved the ways we investigate and enforce against potential policy violations that we find.”