Facebook purges 5,000 apps that accessed data after 90 'inactive' days

Yolanda Curtis
July 4, 2020

The company explains the policy it introduced two years ago: "In 2014, we introduced more granular controls for people to decide which non-public information - such as their email address or their birthdate - to share when they used Facebook to sign into apps". It also revealed that its estimate of 5,000 developers was only based on data available from the last few months.

This new issue is not the same as the one that occurred during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when an app's user provided access to all their friend network's user data, due to the app's shady use of access permissions.

Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was then questioned by the US Congress on how his company had been dealing with users' personal information, and that is when Facebook announced a new policy on 90-day lock-outs for apps.

Facebook says that from the past several months, approximately 5,000 third-party app developers continued to receive the data that people had previously authorised, even after they were inactive on Facebook for over 90 days. In a post in its nearly ironically titled Privacy Matters series, Facebook admits that it shared private user data with thousands of app developers when it should not have. But the company didn't mention the period of time the issue was around before it was fixed.

For instance, if someone had invited their friend to use a fitness app and later stopped using it, Facebook failed to interpret that if the friend was still active on the app.

But Facebook now says the limit did not work properly.

Facebook noted it fixed the issue the day after it was discovered and it plans to "keep investigating". Facebook's Terms also allow Facebook to audit third-party apps by requesting either remote or physical access to the developers' systems, according to these terms, to ensure compliance with its policies. Doing so also prevents you from sharing/liking content from other websites or platforms using embedded Facebook shortcuts, but it's the best way to stop other websites (and Facebook, for that matter) from tracking your account activity.

It will take time to fully analyze what loopholes Facebook is closing with a comprehensive update to terms like this and how these will impact user data and transparency about subsequent data access issues.

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