Tech

Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps in ongoing privacy investigation

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Facebook—the social media company that has been under intense public criticism for not adequately safeguarding the personal information of its 2 billion users—has suspended tens of thousands of apps for a variety of violations, including improperly sharing private data.

In a post published on Friday, Facebook VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said the move was part of an ongoing review that began in March 2018, following revelations that, two years earlier, Cambridge Analytica used the personal information of as many as 87 million Facebook users to build voter profiles for President Donald Trumps presidential campaign. Facebook has been embroiled in several other privacy controversies since then.

The tens of thousands of apps were associated with about 400 developers. While some of the apps were suspended, in a few cases others were banned completely. Offenses that led to banning included inappropriately sharing data obtained from the Facebook platform, making data available without protecting users identities, or clear violations of the social networks terms of service.

One of the few apps Facebook identified was called myPersonality. According to Archibong, it “shared information with researchers and companies with only limited protections in place, and then refused our request to participate in an audit.”

Fridays post said Facebook took legal action against some groups associated with the apps. Companies LionMobi and JediMobi, Archibong said, used their apps to infect users phones with malware in a profit-generating scheme. Facebook has already stopped the alleged fraud and refunded advertisers. Facebook has also sued Ukrainian men Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov for allegedly using quiz apps to scrape users Facebook data. Facebook has also sued South Korean data-analytics company Rankwave for allegedly failing to cooperate with the investigation.

Archibong wrote:

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. Weve also improved the ways we investigate and enforce against potential policy violations that we find.

Beyond this investigation, weve made widespread improvements to how we evaluate and set policies for all developers that build on our platforms. Weve removed a number of APIs, the channels that developers use to access various types of data. Weve grown our teams dedicated to investigating and enforcing against bad actors. This will allow us to, on an annual basis, review every active app with access to more than basic user information. And when we find violators, well take a range of enforcement actions.

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