Facebook Suspends And Bans Tens of Thousands of Apps Over Privacy Investigation

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.

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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.”

iOS 13 is already catching Facebook Apps being shady

If you have caught my last few videos and streams on YouTube lately (and were able to tolerate the technical issues I had), then you would know that I've made my disdain for Facebook and my aggressive dislike of Mark Zuckerberg no secret. It's also been no secret that those who have downloaded an early version of iOS 13 have started seeing a peculiar notification on their device: "Facebook would like to use Bluetooth."

iOS 13, which is scheduled to launch on Thursday of this week, is packed with new privacy features, the goal of which is to give users far more control over what data they share with apps. Both Facebook and Google are notorious for harvesting data to better target advertisements, a business model that Tim Cook has described as the "data industrial complex."


For those who have downloaded the beta version of iOS 13, the update has already caught apps like Facebook and YouTube employing data-gathering methods that have been in place for a while.

One particular method is to clandestinely tap into a phone's Bluetooth technology to track a person's physical location and their proximity to others' smartphones.

Facebook tracks, and gathers enmasse, personal data on users' connections with one another and can combine proximity information gathered from Bluetooth with GPS data to make inferences about their relationships. For instance, Facebook could log that you spent a few hours near someone else at a private residence and differentiate that relationship from other Facebook users you come into contact with only at an office building.

In addition to hoarding as much personal data that they can to use for targeting ads, Facebook could, in theory, use the relationship-mapping data in its newly launched dating service, designed to compete with apps like Tinder and Bumble.

Much to the chagrin of Facebook and Google, iPhone users have the option to turn off location services — including through GPS, Bluetooth, and cell towers — for specific apps, and iOS 13 should provide a more detailed breakdown of which apps access which location services. To use Facebook Dating, however, users must agree to turn on location services. So my personal suggestion to anyone would be to not use these "services" in any way shape or form, whatsoever.

Last week, ahead of the iOS update, Facebook published a blog post explaining its location-gathering practices and noting that users can turn off location services to prevent the app from using Bluetooth and GPS to track them.

However, even with location services switched off, Facebook could still track a user's location "using things like check-ins, events and information about your internet connection."

So in my ever so humble opinion, which I've more or less stated several times over the last few weeks, the likes of Facebook should be stayed away from. Their nefarious practices of garnering our personal information for their own benefit needs to come to a stop. But I do understand that many people still "need" Facebook for one thing or another. My advice to that sort of person would be to at least stop using the Facebook app. If you absolutely need Facebook, contain it to a desktop browser.

I could say the same thing about Google, as their practices are not at all dissimilar. It's simply the fact that Google provides a far wider, and much more productive, range of services that would otherwise cost the end user a significant amount out of their bank account.