Facebook Tightens Control over API after Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Facebook has started tightening its control on third-party applications following the aftermath of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal which involved personally identifiable information being gathered from at least 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica since 2014. This past April, Facebook announced that it would no longer allow for apps to post to user profiles, but Facebook pages and groups will remain unaffected.
Cambridge Analytica was a British firm that used data mining, brokerage, and analysis along with strategic communication during electoral processes for political consulting. The company was started in 2013 and maintained offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and London. In 2014, Cambridge Analytica was involved in 44 United States political races, in 2015 they performed data analysis services for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, and in 2016 they worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
In March of 2018, several media outlets published news of Cambridge Analytica’s practices. The New York Times and The Observer announced that the firm was acquiring and using personal data on Facebook through the use of an external researcher who had informed Facebook that he was collecting it for academic purposes only.
A data scientist at Cambridge University, Aleksandr Kogan, created an app called “This Is Your Digital Life” and provided it to Cambridge Analytica. When users gave this app permission to acquire their data, it also gave Cambridge Analytica access to information on their friends’ network. This resulted in the gathering of data from 87 million users, many of which had never given Cambridge Analytica permission to access it.
Because of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook is now tightening its control over third-party apps and will no longer allow them to post to user profiles. Facebook API updates will impact how some partners utilize their data. User profiles will be removed from social network pickers in composers, calendars, and other mobile apps. Some apps will no longer be able to comment, like, share, or edit on users Facebook profiles.
Facebook has been infamous for quickly changing its APIs in the past that have broken apps with or without warning. Third-party apps auto-posting to their users’ timelines was often part of the app permissions that didn’t have much oversight from Facebook. Users would often give permission to apps that would collect their data and spam their Facebook with posts made on their behalf without even being aware that they gave permission in the first place.
While that may be a thing of the past now, there are some unfortunate offshoots of this restriction. Apps like WordPress.com and Jetpack can no longer automatically publish posts, and apps like Buffer and Hootsuite can no longer let users schedule and publish posts to their social accounts. Users of these apps will now have to manually share their posts if they want them on their timelines and can no longer schedule posts to be published at certain times to reach specific audiences.
If you’re a company that uses Facebook for your business, you may want to consider creating a Facebook Page since there will be no impact on publishing to Facebook Pages and groups. Users also have the option to change their profile to a Page or start up a new page. This feature may not be the best alternative for bloggers though since their writing is not often attached to a business. Facebook will also be limiting the targeting functionality for Facebook Pages meaning it will no longer be possible for users to target posts by language or gender when publishing to Facebook Pages. Targeting posts by location, relationship, interested in, and education will still be supported, and updates will not apply to boosted posts.
If only some “approved partners” are allowed to broadcast to user profile timelines, it puts others at a disadvantage, requiring users to manually share every time they want something published. Those who care about keeping their Facebook audiences will need to remember to manually post content to Facebook after August 1st, 2018 when the changes go into effect.