On Friday, Facebook announced it had suspended tens of thousands of apps as part of that internal investigation, which began following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Last year, an internal audit carried out by the social network led to the suspension of 400 apps, but this new information suggests that data-sharing problems run far deeper within the platform. This from Ime Archibong, VP of product partnerships at Facebook:
"We initially identified apps for investigation based on how many users they had and how much data they could access. Now, we also identify apps based on signals associated with an app's potential to abuse our policies. Where we have concerns, we conduct a more intensive examination. This includes a background investigation of the developer and a technical analysis of the app's activity on the platform. Depending on the results, a range of actions could be taken from requiring developers to submit to in-depth questioning, to conducting inspections or banning an app from the platform. |
Our App Developer Investigation is by no means finished. But there is meaningful progress to report so far. To date, this investigation has addressed millions of apps. Of those, tens of thousands have been suspended for a variety of reasons while we continue to investigate.
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."
The suspensions point to the fact that Facebook is sticking to its stated commitment to identify and take action against rogue developers. However, what's worrying is that there's obviously a lot of work still to do and Facebook holds the details of over 2.4 billion users globally.
The latest move to ban apps mirrors some of Facebook's activity in the past. Last year, it acted against an app called MyPersonality for allegedly sharing personal details with researchers, and for operating with sparse privacy protections. As recently as May 2019, Facebook filed against Rankwave - the South Korean data analytics company that Facebook believes refused to go along with its investigation. Only last month, Facebook filed another action against LionMobi and JediMobi - two companies that allegedly used their products to put malware onto users' phones.
I don't know what you guys think, but I'm of the opinion that whichever way you dice this cabbage, it stinks. Facebook just paid the Federal Trade Commission a $5 billion fine - but was that even enough? It seems plain that we're dealing with an organization that's had access to huge amounts of sensitive user data for years, and done sweet FA in the way of acting responsibly.