Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps During Privacy Investigation

Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps ever since it began investigating potential privacy abuses, the company said Friday. The apps in question had been built by around 400 developers, and a suspension doesn’t necessarily indicate actual privacy violations.

Facebook began combing through millions of apps that made use of its platform after the Cambridge Analytica scandal to determine whether any other apps siphoned off user data to share it with third parties. As part of that investigation, the company was requesting information from app developers over the way they handled user data.

“In many cases, the developers did not respond to our request for information so we suspended them,” explained Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships Ime Archibong in a blog post Friday. Archibong also said that many of the 400 developers targeted had multiple apps that were still in testing, and not actually available out to consumers.

“It is not unusual for developers to have multiple test apps that never get rolled out,” he wrote.

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At the center of the Cambridge Analytica scandal was a Facebook app that presented itself as a personality test, only to harvest vast amount of data from participants and their friends — something that was possible due to lax data sharing policies instituted at Facebook until 2014. Cambridge Analytica subsequently used that data to build personality profiles that were used for political ad targeting. The company worked with the Trump presidential campaign, among others.

As part of its investigation into other potential privacy violations, Facebook has in recent months singled out a handful of other apps for violating its policies. The company also took legal action against a few developers for violating its policies. On Friday, Archibong said that Facebook hadn’t found any additional apps that violated its policies in addition to the previously highlighted cases.

However, Archibong also noted that the company’s investigation hadn’t concluded. “We are far from finished,” he wrote.

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