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Facebook removes ‘tens of thousands’ of apps over privacy concerns

Facebook said it suspended “tens of thousands of apps” and also banned on certain apps for which were “inappropriately sharing data” obtained from it. The company didn’t reveal the exact number of apps that it banned or suspended, but these “tens and thousands” of apps came just from 400 developers. Facebook said it has also permanently removed access to its platform for some of the offending developers, but, didn’t specify how many developers it’s banned.

Facebook is suspending apps from its platform as 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. Till August 2018, the company had removed 400 apps from its platform.

So, what are the reasons behind the suspension of apps? Facebook said app suspensions can happen for “any number of reasons”. However, it specifically mentioned these three reasons: inappropriately sharing data obtained from Facebook, making data publicly available without protecting people’s identity or violating Facebook’s policies.

  • A quiz app called myPersonality was banned since it was found to be sharing information with researchers and companies with limited protection in place. Facebook said that the app also refused to take part in the audit.

Facebook also took legal recourse: Apart from banning apps, Facebook also took legal action against certain apps:

  • Facebook sued two Ukrainian men, Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov, for scraping users’ data off its platform by using quiz apps.
  • It filed a lawsuit against Rankwave (a South Korean data analytics company) as it failed to cooperate with Facebook’s investigation.
  • Facebook also sued LionMobi and JediMobi because apps developed by them were found infecting users’ phones with malware to generate profits. “This lawsuit is one of the first of its kind against this practice,” the company said.

Zuckerberg has been made more accountable of users’ privacy; anti-trust investigations against Facebook

This increased scrutiny on apps, comes after a fine of $5 billion on Facebook imposed by the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the settlement with FTC, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will have to certify to the FTC, every three months, that users’ privacy remains protected on the platform, failing which he might face civil and criminal penalties. A report in June 2019 had also suggested that Zuckerberg was aware of questionable privacy practices by Facebook, before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out.

Also, the United States’ Justice Department is investigating Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon for anti-competitive and monopolistic practices. Facebook is also under FTC’s antitrust investigation.

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