Over 18 months after the Cambridge Analytics scandal first broke, triggering numerous investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, fines big and small, and unprecedented global condemnation, Facebook has finally suspended tens of thousands of apps from its platform – yet even now it claims many of them were completely harmless.
The App Developer Investigation, launched in March 2018 following claims of the illegal data sharing activity, has involved reviewing all apps that have access to large amounts of information, as well as those that express a “potential” to break Facebook’s policies.
However, despite the huge number of apps being halted, the social media giant said this did not necessarily mean they posed an active threat to users. It claims that many were still in their testing phase, and some developers who did not respond to requests for information also saw their apps taken down.
in a statement, Facebook vice president for product partnerships Ime Archibong said: “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.”
Archibong added: “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,” continued. We have been in touch with regulators and policymakers on these issues. We’ll continue working with them as our investigation continues.”
One app that Facebook banned from its platform outright was myPersonality, which shared information with researchers and third-party companies, without adequate protections for user privacy. The developer also refused Facebook’s request to audit the service.
Ironically, Apple stripped Facebook of its developer certificate in January for breaching its app guidelines. The iPhone maker banned Facebook because the company was marketing a data-gathering app known as Research VPN app to consumers, after publishing it onto Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program.
In July, Facebook agreed to pay a $5bn (£4bn) settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission to settle an investigation into the company’s privacy violations, launched following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In the UK, it was fined just £500,000 over the incident – the maximum penalty at the time of the offence. However, an indignant Facebook is still appealing the October 2018 fine, insisting the regulator had no proof that UK users’ personal data had been shared inappropriately.
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