Facebook is on fire, in more ways than one. It’s working overtime to do damage control after admitting its blunder in letting a third-party app amass a wealth of user data, which it was then able to sell to the now infamous Cambridge Analytica. Now Facebook is cracking down on all third-party apps to limit their reach, though it remains to be seen how well Facebook will implement those requirements and for how long.
The problem with data access on Facebook is innate to its social network nature. More often than not, apps don’t just have access to your data but to your friend’s as well, whether they’re using that same app or not. That is what allowed Cambridge Analytica to ultimately receive data on around 87 million Facebook accounts, even when only less than 300,000 users actually used the offending third-party app.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook’s response is to curtail the access that any and all third-party apps have on user data. They will no longer be able to see an event’s guest list or the private information of members in a group. They will also have to agree to Facebook’s requirements being approved to have access to some pieces of information.
But it isn’t just third-party apps that have violated users’ privacy. Facebook itself has been accused of that, either directly or indirectly through features. In response, Facebook promises to restrict the amount and duration of data it accesses through Messenger’s call and text history feature, which is emphasized is completely opt-in. It’s also turning off the ability to search users by phone number or email address to prevent abuses that have lead to scraping user data.
Some will perhaps point out that these are the things that Facebook should have implemented on day one, echoing Apple CEO Tim Cook’s criticism. By now, many apps and businesses may have already established their features based on access to those APIs and information. Given calls for boycotting the social network, some might indeed decide to just call it quits altogether.