Facebook suspends thousands of apps but user impact unclear

Facebook settled with the Federal Trade Commission for a record $5 billion this summer over privacy violations that stemmed from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

Facebook suspends thousands of apps but user impact unclear

Facebook said Friday that it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps made by about 400 developers as part of an investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The announcement came the same day that unsealed legal documents in Massachusetts disclosed that Facebook had suspended 69,000 apps. In the vast majority of cases, however, the suspensions came not after any kind of serious investigation but because app developers had failed to respond to emailed information requests.
Starting in March 2018, Facebook began looking into the apps that have access to its users’ data. The probe came after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten data from millions of Facebook users through an app, then used the data to try to influence US elections.
It led to a massive backlash against Facebook that included CEO Mark Zuckerberg being called to testify before Congress. The company is still trying to repair its reputation.
Facebook said Friday its app investigation is ongoing and it has looked at millions of apps so far.
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 the company 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. The company said the FTC agreement “will bring its own set of requirements for bringing oversight to app developers. It requires developers to annually certify compliance with our policies” and that developers who don’t do this will be “held accountable.”
Also, on Friday, a judge unsealed a subpoena by the Massachusetts attorney general demanding that the social network disclose the names of apps and developers that obtained data from its users without their consent. It also asked for all Facebook internal communications about those apps.
The state began investigating Facebook when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. But the company refused to identify any of the apps or developers, and the subpoena would have remained confidential under Massachusetts law had Facebook not insisted on keeping it and related exhibits secret.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s consumer protection division had sought data on apps from prior to 2014, when Facebook announced changes to the platform to restrict access to user data.
Facebook tried to redact the subpoena in negotiations before Friday’s ruling by state Judge Brian A. Davis. But Healey’s office fought to limit the redacted sections.
Facebook did disclose that it had identified more than 10,000 apps that “show characteristics associated with higher risks of data misuse” but did not identify any of them.
The state attorney general noted that Facebook had allowed developers to integrate at least 9 million apps into the platform as of 2014 and had, for many years, allowed developers to access user data, including photos, work history, birthdates and “likes.” This applied not just from people who installed the apps but also to their Facebook friends who did not.
The unsealed subpoena also says that Facebook informed the Massachusetts attorney general’s office that it had identified about 2 million apps “as warranting a closer examination for potential misuses of Facebook user data.”
That suggests that, five years ago, more than one in four apps may have been accessing Facebook users’ data without their knowledge or consent.


India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

Updated 13 December 2019

India shuts down Internet in hotspot after deadly protests

  • Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants
  • On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on

GUWAHATI: Internet access was cut in India’s northeastern city of Guwahati on Friday as thousands gathered for fresh protests against a new citizenship law, a day after police shot dead two demonstrators.
Protests erupted this week after the government introduced new legislation that many in the far-flung northeast believe will give citizenship to immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and which other critics say is anti-Muslim.
On Friday morning thousands gathered in central Guwahati as riot police looked on, with residents hurrying out to buy essentials.
No fresh violence was reported but Guwahati and other areas remained littered from the detritus of recent days, with some roads blocked by fallen trees, concrete poles, stones and iron railings. Many cash machines have run out of cash and most petrol stations were also shut.
A local government official said that Internet access in the Guwahati, the main city of Assam state, had been cut and an AFP reporter confirmed that connections appeared to have been suspended.
The Meghalaya state government has also cut off mobile Internet, with parts of the capital Shillong brought under curfew since Thursday evening.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was planning to scrap a visit to the city due to begin on Sunday as the security situation deteriorated, media reported Friday. The Japanese leader had been slated to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Thursday, police had fired live and blank rounds as thousands of demonstrators in Guwahati and elsewhere took to the streets, some vandalising property and torching vehicles.
The two demonstrators killed in the city were among around 20 people being treated in hospital, “a few” of whom had gunshot wounds, said Ramen Talukdar, a doctor at a Guwahati hospital.
Hundreds of passengers stuck at Guwahati airport were brought to the city on government buses with police escort in the early hours of Friday morning.
Several thousand troops have been drafted in to help police, who fired tear gas and charged demonstrators with batons, in recent days.
Security was increased at the Bangladeshi consulate in Guwahati after a vehicle in the consul’s convoy was attacked Wednesday by mobs, the foreign ministry in Dhaka said.
“They cant settle anyone in our motherland. This is unacceptable. We will die but not allow outsiders to settle here,” Manav Das, a protester told AFP on Friday.
“We will defeat the government with the force of the people and the government will be forced to revoke the law,” said local activist Samujal Battacharya.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), signed into law by the Indian president late Thursday, allows for the fast-tracking of applications from religious minorities from three neighboring countries, but not Muslims.
For Islamic groups, the opposition and rights groups, it is part of Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies this.
The US State Department on Thursday urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities,” according to Bloomberg.
But many in India’s northeast object for different reasons, fearing that immigrants from Bangladesh — many of them Hindus — will become citizens, taking jobs and weakening the local culture.
The chief ministers of the states of Punjab in the north and Kerala in the south also said that they would not implement the law, the Hindu daily reported.
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