On Friday, Facebook revealed that it has filed a lawsuit against a South Korean data analytics firm, Rankwave claiming that it is unlawfully using its app data for personal marketing and advertising while not adhering to Facebook’s data policies.
Facebook further stated that Rankwave failed to cooperate with the compliance audit, which Facebook says it requires from all developers using their platform.
The lawsuit was filed in a California superior court in San Mateo County claims that Rankwave operated minimum 30 apps through Facebook’s platform and used “Facebook data in order to market and sell its own services, specifically tools used by various customers and businesses to track Facebook interactions such as likes and comments on their pages”.
Rankwave also apparently misused data taken in by its own consumer app, called “Rankwave App”, for checking one’s social media ‘influencer score’. The app “could pull data about your Facebook activity such as location check-ins, determine that you’ve checked into a baseball stadium, and then Rankwave could help its clients target you with ads for baseball tickets”, TechCrunch reports. The lawsuit also mentions that the RankWave App stopped operating on the Facebook Platform around about March 30, 2018.
On January 17, 2019, Facebook sent a written request for information (“RFI”) to Rankwave that requested proof that Rankwave was in compliance with its contractual obligations under Facebook’s Policies and TOS. Moreover, they also wanted to determine the Facebook data Rankwave were used to sell advertising and marketing, including whether any user data had been impacted. Rankwave did not respond to Facebook’s RFI, nor to an email, which reminded them that their response to the RFI was due on January 31, 2019.
On February 13, 2019, Facebook sent Rankwave a Cease and desist letter (C&D Letter) which informed Rankwave that it had violated and continued to violate the platform policies, including Policy 7.9, by failing to provide proof of compliance with Facebook’s Platform Policies and TOS.
Facebook Platform Policy, Section 7.9 states:
“[Facebook] or an independent auditor acting on our behalf may audit your app, systems, and records to ensure your use of Platform and data you receive from us is safe and complies with our Terms, and that you’ve complied with our requests and requests from people who use Facebook to delete user data obtained through our Platform. If requested, you must provide proof that your app complies with our terms.”
According to the lawsuit, in an email response on February 19, 2019, Rankwave ignored the demands in the C&D letter, including the audit request. It also claimed that it had not had access to any of its Facebook apps since 2018.
Jessica Romero, Facebook’s Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation, writes, “By filing the lawsuit, we are sending a message to developers that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies, including requiring developers to cooperate with us during an investigation.”
According to TechCrunch, “Rankwave came into Facebook’s crosshairs in June 2018 after it was sold to a Korean entertainment company in May 2017. Facebook assesses that the value of its data at the time of the buyout was $9.8 million. Worryingly, Facebook didn’t reach out to Rankwave until January 2019 for information proving it complied with the social network’s policies.”
“Now Facebook is seeking money to cover the $9.8 million value of the data, additional monetary damages, and legal fees, plus injunctive relief restraining Rankwave from accessing the Facebook Platform, requiring it to comply with Facebook’s audit, requiring that it delete all Facebook data”, TechCrunch further added.
Many are speculating this incident to the Cambridge Analytics scandal that abused private Facebook data in order to inform political campaigning efforts, leading the social media firm into a huge 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.
One of the users on HackerNews writes, “My prediction after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke is that it would lead to an explosion in wealthy people who want to play at noopolitics. I suspect they have dozens of CA’s on their hands currently. At the very least, if not hundreds. The key takeaway that some people will have had from Cambridge Analytica, is not ‘they got caught, don’t do this’, but rather ‘they were largely successful and incredibly cheap’.”
“The upshot from having lots of players in this space, however, is not one of greater control by insidious power addicts, but rather a loss of control as the players compete for attention and influence. So, chaos in the news and the elimination of any kind of consistent narrative from on high. I think we have been experiencing this for a while now. In some ways, it is almost an improvement”, the user further added.
Facebook responds to Chris Hughes’ “It’s time to break up Facebook”
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes recently wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times that said, the company should be broken up.
“Hughes stated that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s “focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks,” and that he should be held accountable for his company’s mistakes”
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President for global affairs and communications, in his response to Hughes’ thoughts states, “what matters is not size but rather the rights and interests of consumers, and our accountability to the governments and legislators who oversee commerce and communications.”
Clegg, in his article, highlights on various achievements by Facebook, the key areas that FB is planning to concentrate on, and the misunderstanding associated with the company. He mentions, “The first misunderstanding is about Facebook itself and the competitive dynamics in which we operate.” The other one he mentions is that of antitrust laws.
“Over the past two years we’ve focused heavily on blocking foreign adversaries from trying to influence democratic elections by using our platforms. We’ve done the same to protect against terrorism and hate speech and to better safeguard people’s data”, Clegg writes.
Zuckerberg, also responded to Hughes in a TV interview with France Info while in Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, ”When I read what he wrote, my main reaction was that what he’s proposing that we do isn’t going to do anything to help solve those issues.”
He further added, “So I think that if what you care about is democracy and elections, then you want a company like us to be able to invest billions of dollars per year like we are in building up really advanced tools to fight election interference.”
A user on HackerNews writes, “Mr. Clegg starts his opinion piece with a nirvana fallacy: breaking up Facebook won’t solve all the world’s problem, so why bother? More appeals are made throughout to Facebook’s large user-base, as justification for continued market dominance. Yet Mr. Clegg claims anti-trust laws do not apply to Facebook those laws are to ensure “low-cost, high-quality products” – and since Facebook is free, they’re immune from such rules. He proudly denigrates and defies the laws simply because they were “developed in the 1800s” which is an outright disgrace. I find his arguments wholly unedifying and severely lacking in substance and creativity. That pro-Facebook propaganda by their PR head is even deemed worthy of publishing (in NYTimes of all places!) is frankly a disappointment.”
To know more about this news in detail, head over to Nick Clegg’s post on The New York Times.