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Facebook Suspends 200 Apps That Had Access to Vast Amounts of User Data

Facebook, as part of cleaning up the mess left in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, said it has temporarily suspended 200 apps that had access to large amounts of user data prior to 2014.

Facebook didn’t identify any of the 200 apps. Those have been blocked on the social platform pending an investigation “into whether they did in fact misuse any data,” Ime Archibong, VP of product partnerships, wrote in a blog post Monday.

CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg first announced the investigation into such apps on March 21, as part of his initial response to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. Cambridge Analytica is the U.K.-based political consulting firm that had improperly licensed info on upwards of 87 million Facebook users — most of whom had no idea their data had been harvested, via a quiz app hosted on the platform in 2013.

Facebook says it changed its policies restricting the ability of third-party apps to collect data on users’ friends in 2014. Over the past two months, the company has investigated “thousands” of apps that had previously been granted such access, according to Archibong.

In the case of Cambridge Analytica, which had been contracted to work for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Facebook says it had been assured the data the firm had obtained was deleted. However, according to media reports in March, Cambridge Analytica had not eliminated the data in question, which had been obtained through a personality quiz launched by researcher Aleksandr Kogan. The resulting controversy resulted in Zuckerberg testifying before two U.S. congressional hearings and Cambridge Analytica closing its doors.

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Facebook said in the next phase of the investigation, it will conduct interviews with the developers of the 200 apps that have been suspended, as well as request information and perform audits that may include on-site inspections. The company will ban any apps if it finds they misused Facebook users’ data, and will notify users (at this link) if they or their friends had installed those apps, according to Archibong. Facebook also will ban apps if their developers refuse to participate in an audit.

Facebook’s latest disclosure is part of its ongoing strategy to rebuild user trust after the Cambridge Analytica revelations. Despite the bad PR, the social giant grew its worldwide user base in the first quarter of 2018, to an average of 1.45 billion daily active users in March (up 13% year over year), and boosted net income 63% year over year, to $5 billion in Q1.

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