Facebook made an announcement that it had banned an app called myPersonality for inappropriate data controls. Along with this ban, it also suspended other hundreds of apps. After the last ban of Cambridge Analytica, this is so far the second one. But, myPersonality app was dead since 2012. So, its a mystery why Facebook bothered to ban such dead app.
According to the Facebook announcement, the number of app suspensions has reached 400. It is twice the number since Facebook announced publicly. Apps are subject to be suspended and reinstated without any user notification. The only app banned in such a way is Cambridge Analytica.
The creators of the myPersonality app are researchers at the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre, which is an actual academic institution having no relation with Cambridge Analytica. Its aim was to source data from Facebook users through personality quizzes. It was active from 2007 to 2012, and managed to gather data of about four million users.
The company used the collection of data for its own studies, and other academics were able to request the data to it via an online form.
By May, its collection of data was available for anyone to download via GitHub. One misguided scholar accessed the data and decided to post it on GitHub where his/her students could access the same easily.
After that, Facebook banned the app as it believed that the app may have violated its policies. According to Facebook’s statement, the app failed to audit the data and shared the information with everyone with only limited privacy.
The ban seems quite surprising
The app’s suspension is quite surprising as it was not active since 2012. But, Facebook was completely aware of the fact that it used the data for research. In 2009, Facebook verified the app, and a that time it raised no issues with the data and its use.
Facebook knew the vetting process for accessing the data was too light, and was not secured. So, as Facebook had an eye on the functioning of app, it was likely to be banned.
The question arising here is that why would Facebook suddenly decide to ban the app in 2018? It had been inactive since 2012, so it means it was violating policies since then? The reason could be that the auditors never payed attention to deal with this. Also, Facebook didn’t say anything their terms broken by the app.
Ironically, Facebook itself is not able to secure the user data properly. Companies like Cambridge Analytica collected and misused the data from Facebook. But, banning myPersonality app could be a part of Facebook project to begin with suspending all such apps.
Facebook has improved a lot after 2012 and 2015. But, banning apps like myPersonality which was inactive for years sounds harsh. Academics used the collected data for real research purposes. Also, the same data could be helpful for any science grad student right now.
Today’s ban suggests that Facebook has begun such operation after very long. So, if you get a notification from Facebook stating that Facebook is protecting your privacy by banning an app you used a decade ago, ignore it.