Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps following Cambridge Analytica scandal

The suspended apps were tied to 400 developers.

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Queenie Wong
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Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has been looking into app developers who have access to user data. 

Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

Facebook said Friday that it has suspended tens of thousands of apps for various reasons as part of an investigation the company launched last year in response to a major data privacy scandal. 

The suspension of these apps underscores how data privacy issues continue to plague the world's largest social network and could be larger than anticipated. 

In March 2018, revelations surfaced that UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission. The scandal raised concerns about whether the world's largest social network was doing enough to protect the data of its 2.4 billion users and sparked scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. 

Facebook then started looking into developers who had access to user data. The company said many of the suspended apps, which were tied to 400 developers, were still being tested and weren't live when they were suspended. 

"This is not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people," Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, said in a blog post.

Some were suspended because their developers didn't respond to Facebook's request for more information. Others were completely banned. That can happen when an app inappropriately shares user data or runs afoul of the company's rules.

"We have not confirmed other instances of misuse to date other than those we have already notified the public about, but our investigation is not yet complete," Archibong said.

Court documents that were unsealed by a state court in Boston on Friday state that Facebook suspended 69,000 apps. About 10,000 apps may have misappropriated or misused Facebook user data, according to the documents filed as part of an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general. 

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company can't comment on specific apps or developers because a court determined that the information is confidential. Facebook is committed to notifying users if it finds evidence of data misuse after the investigation is completed, she said.

Originally published Sept. 20, 11:01 a.m. PT
Updates, 2:58 p.m. PT: Adds information from court documents; 4:11 p.m.: Includes comment from Facebook.