Facebook says it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps over concerns about how they handled user data amid an internal probe sparked by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The social media giant on Friday said it booted the apps for “a variety of reasons” as part of its ongoing investigation of third-party developers that had access to huge caches of data.
Facebook did not identify the suspended apps and gave few details about why they were kicked off its platform.
But Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, said many were suspended after their developers blew off Facebook’s requests for more information. Some were still being tested and had not gone live when Facebook took action against them.
“It is important to understand that the apps that have been suspended are associated with about 400 developers,” Archibong said in a blog post. “This is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people.”
The revelation indicates Facebook has had to take action against many more third-party apps than previously known.
The company announced in August 2018 than it had suspended more than 400 apps as part of its probe, which started in March of last year following revelations that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used millions of users’ data for political ads.
The new number suggests Facebook is slowly starting to uncover the scope of the problem that third-party apps pose — a realization that may be coming too late, said Jennifer King, the director of consumer privacy at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.
“I would imagine that to the extent that data was compromised, it was probably compromised five years ago, and until we learn who and how there’s really nothing you can do,” King told The Post.
Facebook’s investigation has examined millions of apps so far, Archibong said. The company has banned a handful that inappropriately shared data obtained from it, made data public without protecting people’s identities, or committed other policy violations, she said.
One such app is myPersonality, which Facebook banned last year after it gave companies and researchers information with few protections in place and refused Facebook’s request for an audit, according to Archibong.
Facebook’s disclosure came about two months after the Federal Trade Commission slapped the firm with a record-breaking $5 billion fine for allowing developers to collect data from the friends of people who used their apps.
Facebook pledged to stop that practice in April 2014 but told developers they could keep collecting friends’ data if they had an existing app, the FTC has said. Those developers reportedly included the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which used a personality test to target voters with ads leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook’s July settlement with the FTC requires it to do more to enforce its policies and make sure third-party developers are following them. The deal also established a new privacy committee to take some control over Facebook’s privacy practices from its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
“The FTC was aware of a widespread problem involving app developers on Facebook’s platform and that’s why the agency obtained the relief it did,” FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan said in a statement. “The FTC did a thorough investigation that found Facebook was not adequately policing third-party app developers.”