Facebook has suspended 200 apps from its platforms as part of an ongoing investigation into developers’ exploitation of user data.
The audit was launched in mid-March shortly after the Observer and New York Times broke the news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The controversial political consultancy stands accused of commissioning a Cambridge University researcher to harvest tens of millions of users’ data through a personality quiz app.
In the first official update regarding the investigation, Facebook’s VP of product partnerships Ime Archibong revealed that “to date thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended”.
“Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website,” Archibong wrote. “It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before 2015 — just as we did for Cambridge Analytica.”
Prior to 2015, developers were able to request access to a user’s friend list and their friends’ public data when they signed up for an app. Facebook ultimately scrapped the feature, but not before apparently hundreds of companies realised it could be used to harvest millions of people’s data without their permission.
“We have large teams of internal and external experts working hard to investigate these apps as quickly as possible.” added Archibong. “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.”
Facebook’s investigation is divided into two stages: first, a comprehensive review of any app that had access to “large amounts of information”. Then, if Facebook has concerns about an app, it will carry out interviews, make requests for information involving a “series of detailed questions about the app and the data it has access to” and audits that “may include on-site inspections”.
Announcing the investigation in March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that any developers who failed or refused to comply with the audit would be banned from the platform.
Facebook has not yet revealed the names of the suspended apps or the companies behind them, and is unlikely to do so unless they are banned.
Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica, which has since filed for insolvency, from its platforms in light of the Observer and New York Times’ reporting. Following publication, the social network also banned Chris Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica contractor who blew the whistle on the firm, from using Facebook or Instagram.
He tweeted: “Suspended by @facebook. For blowing the whistle. On something they have known privately for 2 years.”