Facebook is suing a South Korean firm it accuses of unlawfully using data to sell marketing and advertising.
Facebook suing an analytics form for data misuse
Facebook might have another Cambridge Analytica on its hands. In a late Friday news dump, Facebook revealed that it was about to file a lawsuit alleging South Korean analytics firm Rankwave abused its developer platform’s data, and has refused to cooperate with a mandatory compliance audit and request to delete the data.
The social network is asking a judge to force Rankwave to allow it to audit the firm’s activities to see if user data was obtained and potentially sold to third parties.
A source at Facebook told journalists it was as yet unable to say how much data or how many users may be affected.
Facebook is enforcing its privacy policies for data theft
The network said the move would “send a message to developers that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies“.
“Facebook was investigating Rankwave’s data practices in relation to its advertising and marketing services. Rankwave failed to co-operate with our efforts to verify their compliance with our policies, which we require of all developers using our platform.”said Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement.
Rankwave is accused for tracking users’ posts
According to court documents filed in California on Friday, Facebook is accusing Rankwave of using at least 30 different apps to “track and analyse” comments and likes on Facebook pages.
Rankwave also had a consumer app that, after gaining the user’s consent, would track the popularity of that user’s posts. The app would calculate a “social influence score”, Facebook said.
However, the social network said it had information that since 2014, Rankwave had been using data gathered by its apps “for its own business purposes, which include providing consulting services to advertisers and marketing companies”.
In its lawsuit, Facebook accuses Rankwave of ignoring repeated requests to open itself up to an audit and provide evidence relating to data it had allegedly obtained.
Facebook wants a judge to force Rankwave to take those steps, as well as pay an unspecified amount in damages. Facebook said the data company had harmed its “reputation” and “public trust”.
Facebook said it began investigating Rankwave, which has remained active on the network until last month, in June 2018.
The Rankwave case is similar to the Cambridge Analytica scandal
Facebook’s lawsuit details that “Rankwave used the Facebook data associated with Rankwave’s apps to create and sell advertising and marketing analytics and models – which violated Facebook’s policies and terms” and that it “failed to comply with Facebook’s requests for proof of Rankwave’s compliance with Facebook policies, including an audit.” Rankwave apparently accessed data from over thirty apps, including those created by its clients.
Specifically, Facebook cites that its “Platform Policies largely restrict Developers from using Facebook data outside of the environment of the app, for any purpose other than enhancing the app users’ experience on the app.” But Rankwave allegedly used Facebook data outside those apps.
Facebook’s suit claims that “Rankwave’s B2B apps were installed and used by businesses to track and analyze activity on their Facebook Pages . . . Rankwave operated a consumer app called the ‘Rankwave App.’ This consumer app was designed to measure the app user’s popularity on Facebook by analyzing the level of interaction that other users had with the app user’s Facebook posts. On its website, Rankwave claimed that this app calculated a user’s ‘Social influence score’ by ‘evaluating your social activities’ and receiving ‘responses from your friends.’”
According to TechCrunch, Rankwave is still offering an Android app that asks for you to login with Facebook so it can assess the popularity of your posts and give you a “Social Influencer Score”. Until 2015 when Facebook tightened its policies, this kind of app could ingest not only a user’s own data but that about their Facebook friends. As with Cambridge Analytica, this likely massively compounded Rankwave’s total data access.
“We need new internet rules”
The case will probably draw comparisons with Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based data analytics firm that abused private Facebook data in order to inform political campaigning efforts. The discovery of that incident plunged Facebook into a crisis.
On Friday, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris to discuss potential regulation of social networks.
“We need new rules for the internet that will spell out the responsibilities of companies and those of governments,” Mr Zuckerberg told French TV channel France 2 after the meeting.
However, he did not address calls from fellow Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes that the company was too powerful and should be broken up.