Facebook Sues App Developer Over Data Misuse

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data centre, facebook

The company says it is cracking down on the way third parties handle users’ personal information, amidst pressure for tighter regulations

Facebook has sued a South Korean company for allegedly misappropriating data gathered from users of the social network, in a move it said was intended to signal it is serious about restricting the way third parties access sensitive data.

The move follows last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which brought to light what critics called a culture of largely giving app developers free rein with how they used data gathered on Facebook users.

Since then, Facebook has made efforts to crack down on the use of data by third parties.

In legal papers filed in California late on Friday, Facebook accused Rankwave of gathering data via its own app and at least 30 others, including those developed by its partners, and then using that data to help its clients deliver targeted advertisements.

Rankwave’s Android app calculates a ‘social influence score’ // Rankwave

Ad targeting

Rankwave’s advertising business, which the company made no secret of, violated Facebook’s policies, the social media firm said.

Those policies restrict firms from using data for purposes other than to improve the app, according to Facebook.

In Rankwave’s case, the app in question monitored a user’s presence on Facebook and assigned them a “social influence score”.

But Rankwave also operates an ad targeting business, which draws on data collected by apps operated by its own app and those of its clients.

The firm’s clients insert code into their apps which sends the user data they collect to Rankwave for analysis, Facebook said.

The data can then be used to refine the types of ads delivered to users, depending on a range of factors including their physical location at a given moment.

Rankwave’s ad targeting business allegedly violated Facebook’s policies // Rankwave

Investigation

Facebook began investigating Rankwave in June 2018, but the firm’s apps were active on the platform until last month.

The company said Rankwave delayed responding to its requests for information and refused to comply with a mandatory audit.

“By filing the lawsuit, we are sending a message to developers that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies, including requiring developers to cooperate with us during an investigation,” said Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement, in a statement.

The lawsuit seeks to force Rankwave’s participation in the audit, and is also looking for some $9.8 million (£7.5m) in legal fees, as well as the payment of legal and other expenses.

Rankwave did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘New rules’

News of the lawsuit came as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Friday as France and other countries discuss plans for regulation of social media firms.

After the meeting Zuckerberg told television network France 2 that internet companies “need new rules” to clarify their responsibilities.

Earlier in the week Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes argued in an opinion piece in The New York Times that Facebook had become too powerful and should be broken up.

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