In Cambridge Analytica clean-up, Facebook says it killed ‘Tens of Thousands’ of apps

Of course they announced it at the end of the day on Friday, that’s what you do with bad news.

In a Facebook blog post from Ime Archibong, VP of Product Partnerships, Facebook says it has had suspended “tens of thousands” of apps and 400 developers as part of its internal investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Clearly, from the numbers today alone, data privacy remains an unresolved problem for Facebook.

Facebook says it began investigating apps in March 2018 after it became publicly known that the UK-based dirty data dealers Cambridge Analytica obtained and exploited the personal data of individual Facebook users without their consent.

That ongoing review has so far examined millions of apps, Facebook says in the blog post, and the latest round of “tens of thousands” of now-suspended apps are associated with 400 or so different developers.

Excerpt from “An Update on Our App Developer Investigation,” Friday, September 20, 2019 from the Facebook Newsroom:

It is important to understand that the apps that have been suspended are associated with about 400 developers. This is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people. Many were not live but were still in their testing phase when we suspended them. 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.

In a few cases, we have banned apps completely. That can happen for any number of reasons including inappropriately sharing data obtained from us, making data publicly available without protecting people’s identity or something else that was in clear violation of our policies. We have not confirmed other instances of misuse to date other than those we have already notified the public about, but our investigation is not yet complete. We have been in touch with regulators and policymakers on these issues. We’ll continue working with them as our investigation continues. One app we banned was called myPersonality, which shared information with researchers and companies with only limited protections in place, and then refused our request to participate in an audit.

We’ve also taken legal action when necessary. In May, we filed a lawsuit in California against Rankwave, a South Korean data analytics company that failed to cooperate with our investigation. We’ve also taken legal action against developers in other contexts. For example, we filed an action against LionMobi and JediMobi, two companies that used their apps to infect users’ phones with malware in a profit-generating scheme. This lawsuit is one of the first of its kind against this practice. We detected the fraud, stopped the abuse and refunded advertisers. In another case, we sued two Ukrainian men, Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov, for using quiz apps to scrape users’ data off our platform.

And we are far from finished. As each month goes by, we have incorporated what we learned and reexamined the ways that developers can build using our platforms. We’ve also improved the ways we investigate and enforce against potential policy violations that we find.

From the New York Times:

The app suspensions are part of the fallout that Facebook has faced over the Cambridge Analytica disclosure. Those revelations, which were first reported by The New York Times and The Observer in London, created a firestorm for the Silicon Valley company and raised questions about whether it appropriately safeguarded the data of its more than two billion users.

The social network has since faced lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny and the ire of lawmakers around the world. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, appeared in Congress to testify on the matter and has apologized. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook made its new disclosure as the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which has been examining the social network’s data-sharing practices, has been working to unseal documents related to the investigation of the apps. Last month, Facebook had petitioned a judge in Boston to seal the records. The documents are likely to be unsealed by a state court within the next week.

Read the rest:
Facebook Says It Has Suspended ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps [NYT, Kate Conger and Gabriel J.X. Dance]