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Social media giant Facebook has finally reacted to the global storm around its data privacy policies by bringing in a new set of restrictions on developers and data aggregators using the platform for data harvesting.
“Two weeks ago we promised to take a hard look at the information apps can use when you connect them to Facebook as well as other data practices. We will remove a developer’s ability to request data people shared with them if it appears they have not used the app in the last 3 months,” said Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mark Schroepfer in a blog.
Facebook has also disabled the feature to search a user by their email address or phone number which has been abused by malicious actors and reduced the overall control that the app will have on user data.
Facebook has also submitted its response to the Indian government saying over 500,000 people in India have been potentially affected by the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica. The government sources said as the social networking firm has now accepted that Indians’ data was compromised; it makes the issue much more important and serious. “We will wait for Cambridge Analytica’s reply and then, we will take our stand,” sources in Electronics and IT Ministry said.
The Ministry had issued notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, seeking their responses regarding the data breach of Indians and if it was used to influence elections.
The new set of restrictions clamp down on how much data app developers access on the platform and also prevent third part data providers from offering targeted marketing services on Facebook.
"India is the second largest Facebook developer base and the restriction on users' data access is going to impact all of them. There will be more scrutiny in Facebook apps, leading to slower approvals. Virality will reduce as explicit consent will be required for accessing friends' data and contacts list, “ said Vivek Prakash, CTO and Co-Founder, HackerEarth.
He added that there could be tighter terms of service making developers also liable for unauthorized processing of data that they collect from the apps.
Executive Director of Center for Internet and Society Sunil Abraham says that while Facebook says “apps need to agree to strict requirements” and “tightening our review process” it is still not clear what these requirements are. “Instead of the promised link to whether user data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica, it would make sense for them to say Facebook holds W number of records across X databases over the time period Y, which totals Z Gb while explaining what these variables stand for,” he said.
Consumer data marketing company Hansa Cequity believes that digital marketing arms of most companies will finally have to consider building their own user database given the strict clampdown on third party data.“Businesses can no more use data from third party aggregators for targeted advertising. Consumer goods and entertainment related brands are likely to face some impact because they depend on access to such data,” said S Swaminathan, Co-Founder and CEO, Hansa Cequity.
Some experts also believe that this move might force platforms like Twitter, Google and YouTube to rethink their policies on how much access they give advertisers and data aggregators to user data. Abraham also added that app developers and their investors have to evaluate business models that depend more on value to user rather than the amount of personal data harvested. The data that has already been harvested by the likes of Cambridge Analytica and other unknown parties, however, is beyond user control forever.