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Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps

Facebook has removed tens of thousands of apps from hundreds of developers as the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues.

In March last year it was revealed that the shadowy political consultancy got hold of the personal details of over 50 million users of a Facebook app after its developers broke the social network’s rules on data collection.

As part of its $5bn settlement with the FTC, Facebook promised greater oversight of its developer ecosystem to ensure a repeat incident could not occur.

According to Facebook VP of product partnerships, Ime Archibong, the tens of thousands of suspended apps are linked to around 400 developers.

“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,” he explained.

“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.”

Although many of the suspended apps were still in their test phase and did not pose an immediate threat to user privacy, they were still suspended if they didn’t meet Facebook rules and/or if the developer failed to respond to a request for further information.

Some were banned outright if they inappropriately shared Facebook data, made it publicly available without protecting users’ identities, or otherwise violated policies.

These include myPersonality, whose developers stored psychology profiles for millions of users on a poorly secured site for years. Archibong also revealed that Facebook is suing South Korean data analytics firm Rankwave, as well as LionMobi and JedMobi, which are apps linked to malware distribution.

Aside from the ongoing App Developer Investigation, Facebook claims to have made improvements to its developer oversight, including removing APIs, enhancing its number of investigators, and introducing new rules to restrict developers’ control over user data.

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