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Facebook suspends 200 apps after Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook suspends 200 apps after Cambridge Analytica scandal
Facebook says it will ban any app that fails the audit or refuses to cooperate with the audit. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Facebook Inc. said Monday that it has suspended roughly 200 apps amid an ongoing investigation prompted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal into whether services on the site had improperly used or collected users' personal data.

The social media giant did not immediately provide detail on which apps were suspended or how many people had used them. The company said in an update — its first since it announced the internal audit in March — that the apps would undergo a "thorough investigation" into whether they had misused user data.

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Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook will examine tens of thousands of apps that could have accessed or collected large amounts of users' personal information before the site's more restrictive data rules for third-party developers took effect in 2015.

The company said teams of internal and external experts will conduct interviews and lead on-site inspections of certain apps during its ongoing audit. Thousands of apps have been investigated so far, the company said, adding that any app that refused to cooperate or failed the audit would be banned from the site.

The app used by Aleksandr Kogan — the researcher who provided data to Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy hired by President Trump and other Republicans — was able to pull detailed data on 87 million people, including from the app's direct users and from those users' friends, who had not overtly consented to the app's use.

The suspensions support a long-running defense of Kogan that many apps besides his had gathered vast amounts of user information under Facebook's previously lax data-privacy rules.

The announcement comes ahead of a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill focused on Cambridge Analytica and data privacy. Lawmakers are expected to hear from Christopher Wylie, a former employee at the firm who brought its business practices to light this year, though the Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet released a final witness list.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook's entanglement with Cambridge Analytica violates the company's 2011 settlement with the U.S. government over another series of privacy mishaps. Such violations could carry sky-high fines.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, the European Parliament is still requesting that Zuckerberg come testify in person. A spokesman for Antonio Tajani, the president of the parliament, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

British lawmakers have issued a similar demand, and Facebook told a panel there investigating the company that by Monday, it would make a decision about Zuckerberg's potential appearance. A spokeswoman for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the committee had heard from Facebook but declined to provide further details.

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