Aug. 13, 2012 at 5:13 PM ET
An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission has determined that Facebook misled hundreds of paying developers into thinking their apps for the social network were receiving special attention. The findings are unrelated to another FTC investigation of Facebook that concluded Friday.
The "Verified Apps" program ran for about eight months in 2009, billed as a way for app developers to get better placement in the network's app directory while also receiving a more thorough examination for possible security problems. Around 254 apps ended up being "verified," a process that cost $375 for normal developers or $175 for students and nonprofits.
Although the company advertised to developers and users that verified apps would receive a more detailed review and "extra assurances" of security and transparency, the FTC found that Facebook failed to deliver on this promise ("Paragraph 46" refers to Facebook's description of the program):
Contrary to the statements set forth in Paragraph 46, before it awarded the Verified Appsbadge, Facebook took no steps to verify either the security of a Verified Application’swebsite or the security the Application provided for the user information it collected,beyond such steps as it may have taken regarding any other Platform Application.
In other words, they didn't do anything more than they might for any other app, despite receiving money to do so and telling users they had done so. The accusation was part of a larger collection of Facebook's "unfair and deceptive" practices assembled by the FTC.
The complaint is just that right now, a formal complaint, and the extent of damage and (if necessary) reparations will be determined later on. The repercussions from a previous FTC complaint were felt Friday, when a punishment was finalized, forcing Facebook to submit to yearly independent audits of their privacy policies, and forbidding certain settings changes from occurring without user consent.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.