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Cambridge Analytica fallout: Facebook suspends around 200 apps in ongoing audit

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Facebook has suspended around 200 apps from its platform following an initial review of apps that had access to large amounts of user data. The action is part of an ongoing audit of third-party applications running on the social media platform following the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal, where data gathered from a third party app was used to access profiles of over 87 million users and serve them targeted election ads.

The company announced on its blog that it has reviewed “thousands of apps” with access to Facebook user data and suspended 200 of them “pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data.” The suspension of 200 apps doesn’t necessarily mean each of them is a Cambridge Analytica-style scandal; rather these 200 apps will be subject to a “thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data.” The company says that if any misuse is detected it will be announced on this website. “It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015.”

A report on Recode notes that this number will likely grow. A company spokesperson told Recode that Facebook is still very early on in the audit process. The company has not shared the exact number of apps under review but has said that thousands are under audit. So it is very likely that the number of suspensions will rise.

Facebook trying to limit app activity

Last month, Facebook and Instagram announced a set of API shutdowns and changes designed to stop developers from being able to pull users’ or their friends’ data without express permission, drag in public content or trick them into sharing. Some of these changes went into effect last month, while some others roll out on August 1, so developers have some time to comply. For context, APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are a software layer that allows applications to access features or data from a platform like Facebook.

One of the biggest changes will impact apps that use a Facebook Login (Facebook Login API). Going forward, all new apps will no longer have permission “to publish posts to Facebook as the logged in user.” For existing apps, this permission will be revoked on August 1st.

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Other changes included:

  • The Events API will no longer allow apps to RSVP to events for you, and two analytics tools will no longer offer app event metrics or exports from the analytics app.
  • On Instagram, developers won’t be able to use the Graph API to pull the name and bio of users who comment on posts anymore; usernames and comments though will still remain open to scraping.
  • Apps that publish to Pages via the Live API will be restricted to approved partners only. Developers have until the 1st of August to apply to the approved partner system. This will be required to keep publishing Live and video on-demand to Pages. This may impact pages which use third party apps to publish Facebook Live videos.
  • Organic targeting, based on gender and language will also be stopped for posts made with a third-party app. Some age-gating will still be allowed in a limited way.
  • Apps won’t be able to attach their name or logo to images in Messenger.
  • Developers will also no longer be able to call for information on locations tagged in users’ photos.

Facebook’s attempt at redemption

Facebook is trying its best to gain user trust back following the Cambridge Analytica incident. In fact, it is admirable that the company is following up on a promise made by CEO Zuckerberg to put users over its developer platform, something commentators were doubtful they will do. While it can’t retroactively change the fact that 87 million of its users were impacted because of its failure to safeguard their data, at least Facebook can limit the permissions of third-party apps going forward.

Written By

Writes about consumer technology, social media, digital services and tech policy. Is a gadget freak, gamer and Star Wars nerd.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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