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After data leak row, Facebook imposes restrictions on user data access

MEIT issues notice to Facebook even as experts debate absolute impact on the second largest developer community

Romita Majumdar & Kiran Rathee 

facebook, social media

Social media giant 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 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 Chief Technology Officer 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 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 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, and 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 and other unknown parties, however, is beyond user control forever.

  • Data of up to 87 million people leaked to Cambridge Analytica
  • Total number of Indians affected is 562450
  • Facebook will not store call and text data for more than a year.
  • Apps using Facebook Events will not be able to view guests anymore
  • Facebook will tell people whether their information was shared with Cambridge Analytica

First Published: Thu, April 05 2018. 22:42 IST
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