Facebook has once again introduced several API changes and shutdowns aimed at limiting apps’ access to user data. The company seems to be attempting to manage the upheaval caused by the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Some APIs have been tweaked to limit access to user data through App Review, or have been shutdown entirely due to low usage. For context, APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are a software layer that allows applications to access features or data from a platform like Facebook.
Facebook reviews apps before they go public, to examine what user data apps obtain and how they use it. An App Review enables developers to use Facebook Login, gives them access to a user’s pubic profile, enables apps to ask for additional permissions (apart from email address and public profile), and ensures that permissions requested are rational and relevant. “Data gained from the permission needs to be tied to a direct use.” says Facebook’s policy. These API changes by Facebook now require App Reviews:
- Pages API: Developers can once again search for Facebook pages via the Pages API. However, they will have to seek feature permissions for Page Public Content Access, which can only be obtained after an app review. Page Public Content Access provides anonymised data including public comments, posts, and reviews for a Page. It enables Facebook users to discover pages; for app owners, it provides tools about how a business’s brand, products, or services are being publicly talked about.
- Marketing API: An app review is now required for developers to access the Marketing API which helps businesses automate and scale their advertising on Facebook, including the creation of ads and the management of campaigns.
- New app review permissions are now required for the Lead Ads Retrieval and Live video APIs.
Facebook also indicated that more developer platform reviews are underway; more APIs may be addressed which isn’t surprising as it been introducing a spate of API changes in an attempt to bandage the damage caused by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In April, Facebook and Instagram announced a slew of API changes designed to stop developers from being able to pull user data or users’ friends’ data without express permission, drag in public content or trick users into sharing.
Other API changes
- Media Solutions: On August 1, Facebook will shut down Topic Search, Topic Insights and Topic Feed and Public Figure APIs due to low usage. It has already deprecated the Trending API, Signal tool for journalists, Trending Topics product as well as Hashtag Voting for interactive TV experiences. Facebook said the public content discovery APIs will be limited to page content and public posts on certain verified profiles.
- Graph API Explorer App: Facebook deprecated the app; developers will need to use their own apps’ access token to test queries on the Graph API Explorer.
- Profile Expression Kit: Deprecated for low usage, this tool is used to enhance profile photos and also create profile videos.
A bug randomly unblocked people who were blocked
Facebook disclosed that around 800,000 users were impacted by a bug on both Facebook and Messenger that silently unblocked people who had been blocked. The bug was live for an entire week from May 29 to June 5.
Before you blow your lid, it is worth noting that the bug did make anybody who had been blocked your friend again (Facebook automatically unfriends people when you block them). Any post you shared that was meant for friends, probably remained private and the blocked individuals could not see them. It may have enabled some blocked users to send you a friends request or send you an add request on Messenger. According to Facebook, 85 percent of people had only one person on their block list unblocked due to the bug.
Though it did not provide any technical details of how the bug occurred, Facebook told Techcrunch that visible items on Facebook are bunched together in “associations”; a bug deleted some of these associations which removed the blocks that were in place.
Facebook is now notifying people affected by the bug along with a prompt to check who their blocked lists.
Shutting apps that failed to take-off
Facebook announced in a blog post that it is shutting down three apps that simply did not gain enough scale and traction. It is deprecating fitness app Moves, anonymous feedback app tbh, and Android contacts app Hello. It said app data will be deleted within 90 days.
“We regularly review our apps to access which ones people value most. Sometimes this means closing an app and its accompanying APIs.” said Facebook in a statement.