After reviewing “thousands” of apps on its platform following a major data misuse scandal that blew up in March, Facebook has announced it’s suspended around 200 apps — pending what it describes as a “thorough investigation” into whether or not their developers misused Facebook user data.
The action is part of a still ongoing audit of third party applications running on the platform announced by Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal where a third party developer used quiz apps to extract and pass Facebook user data to the consultancy for political ad targeting purposes.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the app audit on March 21, writing that the company would “investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity”.
…In the Cambridge Analytica instance, Facebook admitted that personal information on as many as 87 million users may have been passed to the political consultancy — without most people’s knowledge or consent.
Giving an update on the app audit process in a blog post, Ime Archibong, Facebook’s VP of product partnerships, writes that the investigation is “in full swing”.
“To date thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended — pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data. Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website. It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015 — just as we did for Cambridge Analytica.”
Archibong does not confirm how much longer the audit will take — but does admit there’s a long way to go, writing that: “There is a lot more work to be done to find all the apps that may have misused people’s Facebook data – and it will take time.”
Where Facebook does have concerns about an app — such as the ~200 apps it has suspended pending a fuller probe — Archibong says it will conduct interviews; make requests for information (“which ask a series of detailed questions about the app and the data it has access to”); and perform audits “that may include on-site inspections”.
So Facebook will not be doing on site inspections in every suspicious app instance.
it’s not clear whether the company will publish a public list of every app that it suspends or deems to have misused user data — or whether it will just notify affected individuals.
Given the likely scale of data misuse by developers on its platform there is an argument for Facebook to publish a public list of suspensions.