Facebook suspends 200 apps in user data misuse investigation

The company said in March that it would be investigating apps that “had access to large amounts of information” before Facebook changed policies in 2014.
by Daniella Silva /  / Updated 
Image: mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration
Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018.Dado Ruvic / Reuters file

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Facebook has suspended around 200 apps for potentially misusing people’s data, marking the company's first crackdown as part of an investigation triggered by the scandal over user privacy and the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

“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,” Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships at Facebook, wrote in a statement Monday.

The company said in late March that it would be investigating apps that “had access to large amounts of information” before Facebook changed its policies in 2014 to reduce access to users' data.

“Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website,” Archibong said. “It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015 — just as we did for Cambridge Analytica.”

Facebook has been roiled in controversy over how it allowed for the collection of user data after it was disclosed that a researcher gave data for as many as 87 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, a British data-mining firm that worked with the election campaign for President Donald Trump. The firm used that data to target U.S. citizens with political ads.

Facebook launched a tool last month that let users know if their data was collected by the "This Is Your Digital Life" personality quiz app, which was used by Cambridge University researchers linked to Cambridge Analytica.

The scandal led to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress, the company enacting tougher privacy policies, and the app investigation.

Archibong said the investigation would have two phases. The first is a review to identify which apps had access to large amounts of Facebook data and the second to conduct interviews and audit potentially concerning apps, he wrote.

The company did not say which apps were suspended as part of the investigation or detail specific concerns with the suspended apps.

Cambridge Analytica announced last week that it and its parent company were shutting down after the scandal led to intense scrutiny from both the U.S. and U.K. governments.

“The company is immediately ceasing all operations," the data firm said in a surprise statement on Wednesday, adding that “parallel bankruptcy proceedings will soon be commenced."

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