Facebook suspends around 200 apps in privacy audit

Facebook has suspended around 200 third-party apps, after its data misuse investigation found signs that they may have been acting improperly. The app audit was part of Facebook's grand mea-culpa earlier this year, after the part the social network played in the Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed.

Cambridge Analytica was found to have allegedly received a huge cache of Facebook user data from a third-party app developer. That developer had taken advantage of earlier Facebook APIs that, when users took part in a quiz or game, granted access not only to the individual user's data but that of their friends on the site, too. Cambridge Analytica was later accused of using that database to help targeted campaigns during the US presidential election in 2016.

While Cambridge Analytica may have since shut up shop, Facebook said it couldn't be sure that the incident was the only one where data misuse had been occurring. As a result, CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised that it would be investigating all apps that had access to large amounts of information, prior to the change in API policy back in 2014. Those apps that raised suspicion – or developers which refused to comply with the audit itself – would be banned.

"To date thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended," Ime Archibong, VP of Product Partnerships at Facebook confirmed today, "pending a thorough investigation into whether they did in fact misuse any data."

According to Archibong, the investigation process is a two-stage one. First off, Facebook has to figure out which apps actually had access to large quantities of user data. After that, he writes, "where we have concerns, we will conduct interviews, make requests for information (RFI) — which ask a series of detailed questions about the app and the data it has access to — and perform audits that may include on-site inspections."

Facebook will be posting the results of its audit on a support page, though only in cases where it finds apps that have misused data. At present, therefore, that only has details on the "This Is Your Digital Life" test, the app from which data eventually made its way to Cambridge Analytica.