Facebook suspends ‘tens of thousands’ of apps in privacy investigation

23 Sep 2019

Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

The latest update from Facebook’s app developer investigation has raised even more questions about its privacy woes.

Facebook has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps from its platform for “a variety of reasons” as a result of its app developer investigation, which it began in March 2018 as part of its response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The social media giant explained in a blog post on Friday (20 September) that it initially identified apps for investigation based on their user base and the level of access they had to data.

The company has also begun singling out apps based on “signals” it associates with “an app’s potential to abuse our policies”. If any red flags appear, Facebook will conduct a more thorough check, which includes a background check on the app’s developer and a technical analysis of the app’s activity.

The latest update far exceeds initial disclosures about app suspensions made in August 2018, when 400 apps were suspended due to misuse of user data. According to The New York Times, a court filing unsealed in Boston on Friday puts the number of apps suspended at 69,000. It was reported that the bulk of these were terminated simply for not cooperating with Facebook’s investigation, while around 10,000 were flagged for potentially misusing data.

Renewed privacy fears

The news has brought privacy concerns surrounding Facebook to the fore yet again, although Facebook’s continued court battles have been near-constant since the details of Cambridge Analytica first emerged in 2018.

In Friday’s update, Facebook also made reference to its landmark $5bn fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which was meted out in July of this year for the mishandling of user data.

Part of the agreement reached with the FTC instructed Facebook to incorporate new privacy measures into its platforms, be more vigilant about documenting and resolving privacy risks and to present independent privacy assessments to the FTC.

Facebook is also currently at the centre of a massive US antitrust investigation, which has seen some of the largest tech firms in the world – Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook – all being asked to hand over massive caches of internal documents.

Letters sent from the House judiciary committee and its subcommittee on antitrust have asked company executives to turn over information regarding their respective market shares, competitors and justification for some of their more controversial business decisions, such as Amazon’s acquisition of a number of booksellers and Facebook’s decision to cut off Voxer, Vine, Stackla and other apps from its social graph.

Social media icons on mobile screen. Image: Mactrunk/Depositphotos.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic