Facebook sues developers for data privacy breaches

facebook 1Facebook is attempting to show it has learned the lessons from the Cambridge Analytica scandal by taking legal action against two separate developers for failing to comply with an audit and selling services that falsely boost Instagram users’ engagement figures.

The social media giant has filed a breach of contract claim in the UK High Court against an MobiBurn, its parent company OakSmart Technologies and its founder Fatih Haltas. It alleges that the accused used malicious software to collect personal data from unwitting Facebook users and a business that was purportedly built to artificially inflate “likes”, followers and other measures of engagement on Instagram.

Facebook is accusing the parties of collecting users’ data from Facebook and other social media companies by paying app developers to install a malicious software development kit in their apps.

The social media giant is being represented by White & Case LLP; it is the first time Facebook has sued an app developer in the UK.

In a statement, Facebook said: “When people installed those apps on their devices, MobiBurn collected information from the devices and requested data from Facebook, including the person’s name, time zone, email address and gender.”

Security analysts alerted Facebook to MobiBurn’s actions, and Facebook asked MobiBurn to participate in an audit, but it “failed to fully cooperate,” the social network claimed.

For its part, MobiBurn said it first received a cease-and-desist notice from Facebook in November 2019. It added: “Since then MobiBurn has tried to cooperate with Facebook to show that no Facebook user data was subject to unauthorised access or misuse or otherwise improperly handled.

“In particular, MobiBurn has sought to explain that none of the apps…in the case incorporated the Facebook Login Feature and therefore were technically unable to collect Facebook user data.”

The company insists claims that it refused to comply with a Facebook audit “are not accurate”. MobiBurn added that it has instructed its legal team “to prepare a response to Facebook’s claim [and is] committed to seeking to resolve this unnecessary dispute amicably”.

Meanwhile, in the US, Facebook is suing Nikolay Holper, creator of a service called Nakrutka, for using “a network of bots and automation software to distribute fake likes, comments, views and followers on Instagram [and selling] fake engagement services”. Holper was previously warned by Facebook that he was in violation of its terms.

In response to both cases, Facebook said: “Today’s actions are the latest in our efforts to protect people who use our services, hold those who abuse our platform accountable, and advance the state of the law around data misuse and privacy.”

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