As part of the ongoing Cambridge Analytica probe that began in March 2018, Facebook said on Friday that it suspended thousands of apps from its platform.
Suspending the apps associated with about 400 developers is not necessarily an indication that these apps pose a threat to users or have allegedly committed a crime. It’s simply a part of the checks to investigate the Cambridge Analytica matter.
The social network paid a record-breaking fine to the tune of $5b to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to resolve a probe into its privacy practices. The probe was triggered after it was discovered that the social network had shared data of 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica without their consent.
This act is a violation of a 2012 consent decree. Upon making such a huge fine, Facebook has agreed to prevent the amount of information that it allows third-party apps to retrieve from users. The data of the 87 million users was retrieved via a third-party app developed by a data scientist, Aleksandr Kogan.
Facebook’s design at the time allowed the app to retrieve personal information of people who completed the survey, and also the information of their friends which included one’s public profile, page likes, birthday and current city. Unknown to the users, they granted the app permission to access the News Feed, timeline and messages. The harvest information was detailed enough for the political consultancy to create psychographic profiles of the subjects of the data, which also included the locations of each person.
The social network said it banned some apps for “inappropriately sharing data obtained from us, making data obtained from us, making data publicly available without protecting people’s identity or something else that was in clear violation of our policies.”
Facebook said it sued other developers who failed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, and those using their apps to scrape user data and to spread malware and scrape users’ data. A study from Privacy International revealed that some fertility related apps including My Period Tracker and Maya by Plackal Tech were involved in a privacy violation for sharing sensitive data with Facebook with the intent to reach advertisers who provide users with targeted audience or personalised ads.
The increased scrutiny comes after the record-breaking FTC fine and as many states in the have announced that they will launch privacy investigations against big techs including Google.