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Technology

Facebook says it has suspended ‘tens of thousands’ of apps

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, shown in 2018, had a slew of private meetings with President Trump and lawmakers this week.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Facebook Inc. said Friday that it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps made by about 400 developers as part of an investigation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Starting in March 2018, the social media giant began looking into the apps that have access to its users’ data. The investigation came after revelations that data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten data gleaned from millions of Facebook users through an app, then used the data to try to influence U.S. elections.

It led to a massive backlash against Facebook that included Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg being called to testify before Congress. The company is still trying to repair its reputation.

Facebook said that its investigation is ongoing and that it has looked at millions of apps so far.

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The company said it has banned a few apps completely and has filed lawsuits against some, including in May against a South Korean data analytics company called Rankwave. In April, it sued LionMobi, based in Hong Kong, and JediMobi, based in Singapore, which Facebook says made apps that infected users’ phones with malware.

Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission for a record $5 billion this summer over privacy violations that stemmed from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also on Friday, the head of the House Intelligence Committee said Zuckerberg has assured him that Facebook is working on ways to prevent foreign actors from disrupting next year’s elections.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) met with Zuckerberg and said the CEO showed a deep awareness of the threat to the elections from “deep fake” videos and other technically advanced tools.

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Schiff told reporters Facebook is “in the process of developing what I hope will be very strong policies on this. I think [Zuckerberg] fully appreciates the gravity of the situation.”

It was Zuckerberg’s third day of private meetings in Washington, following other sessions with top lawmakers and President Trump. Zuckerberg also met Friday with the leader of a House antitrust investigation into the big tech companies and pledged to cooperate.

The House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), is investigating the market dominance of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. The lawmakers recently asked the companies for a detailed and broad range of documents related to their sprawling operations, including top executives’ internal communications.

The conciliatory tone from lawmakers Friday stood in contrast to declarations the day before from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a conservative who is the Senate’s most vocal critic of the tech industry. Hawley said he challenged Zuckerberg in their meeting to sell his company’s WhatsApp and Instagram properties to prove Facebook is serious about protecting data privacy.

“The company talks a lot. I’d like to see some action,” Hawley told reporters.


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