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Facebook user data still being harvested by tranche of developers

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In a company blog post, Facebook has acknowledged that approximately 100 app developers may have collected large amounts of Facebook user data despite the company having taken action to limit access to that information.

In March 2018, reports emerged that a data analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, had harvested the personal data of 87 million unwitting Facebook users through a third-party personality quiz app and used insights from the data to target political ads to users based on their psychological profiles. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised for Facebook’s failure to prevent the scandal, after which time Facebook began to restrict third parties’ access to user data.

These changes included removing or restricting some of their developer APIs, including the ‘Groups’ API. This API provides an interface between Facebook and apps which can be integrated with a Facebook group. Following the changes, group administrators authorising an app for a group would only pass basic group information such as name and number of users, rather than much more in-depth information on individual users, such as names and profile pictures.

In a blog post, Facebook’s director of platform partnerships Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, explained that Facebook has discovered that some apps retained access to detailed group information after the restrictions were introduced and approximately 100 partners may have accessed this information since, “although it’s likely that the number that actually did is smaller and decreased over time.” Most of these developers provided social media management and video streaming apps for businesses and other influential users to manage Facebook groups.

Papamiltiadis said that at least 11 developers accessed this information in the last 60 days. His blog post does not disclose the names of any of the third parties or their apps.

“Although we’ve seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data they may have retained and we will conduct audits to confirm that it has been deleted,” he wrote. He added that Facebook’s recent $5bn settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal required it to provide more “accountability and transparency” into how it built and managed products and that the company expected to identify and confess further privacy issues in the future.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has weathered numerous other scandals relating to its handling of user dataviolent and manipulative content on its platforms; its allegedly deliberately addictive naturepotential antitrust violationsdiscriminatory ad targeting, and a possibly ill-judged digital currency venture, Libra, which has caused concern among regulators and lawmakers around the world.

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