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Facebook admits it wrongly shared user data with 5,000 developers

James Cook
·2-min read
Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has admitted it wrongly shared user data with around 5,000 app developers after a cut-off system introduced following the Cambridge Analytica scandal failed.

In 2018, the social network blocked apps from collecting data on Facebook users if they hadn’t used an app in 90 days. 

The system was designed to close a loophole used by an app which gathered data on 87 million Facebook users and was alleged to have handed the data to Cambridge Analytica.

However, Facebook’s vice president of platform partnerships Konstantinos Papamiltiadis wrote in a blog post published on Wednesday that around 5,000 app developers had continued to receive user data beyond Facebook’s 90-day cut-off.

“This could happen if someone used a fitness app to invite their friends from their hometown to a workout, but we didn’t recognise that some of their friends had been inactive for many months,” he wrote.

The bug handed developers information including people’s language and gender. Facebook said it fixed the issue the day after it was discovered and added that it does not believe people’s information was wrongly made public.

Facebook’s admission of the issue comes as the company faces a growing advertiser boycott over allegations of hate speech on its site.

Some of the world’s largest advertisers, including Ford, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, have paused their ad spending on Facebook.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told employees in an internal meeting last month that the boycott only threatens “a small percent” of the company’s revenue and he expects the advertisers to return “soon enough.”

Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister who was hired by Facebook in 2018, wrote in an article published earlier this week that the “vast majority” of Facebook conversations are positive.

“We may never be able to prevent hate from appearing on Facebook entirely, but we are getting better at stopping it all the time,” he wrote.