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Facebook’s latest controversy has echoes of Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook sued a South Korean company on Friday for alleged misuse of Facebook data.

In the lawsuit filed in a California court, Facebook admitted it has not determined what personal user information may have been misused by Rankwave, which offers apps to consumers and businesses.

Facebook alleges Rankwave used Facebook data to “create and sell advertising and marketing analytics and models,” against its policies.

The social media company announced it was suing Rankwave Friday evening. Facebook has earned a reputation for releasing news about the potential misuse of its users’ data late on Fridays and on the eves of public holidays, after the markets close.

Facebook has allowed third party developers to access Facebook user data, with users’ consent, to run features like those that allow users to login to other service with their Facebook credentials, take online quizzes and play games. The Facebook data, including user data, that app developers access is only supposed to be used for functionalities like those, Facebook says.

But Facebook accuses Rankwave of breach of contract and violation of California fair business laws, and alleges it used some data for its own purposes, including, “providing consulting services to advertisers and marketing companies.”

Representatives for Rankwave could not immediately be reached for comment about the lawsuit. After Facebook sent the firm a cease and desist letter, Rankwave told Facebook in February that it had not broken Facebook’s rules, according to the suit.

Facebook was plunged into crisis last year after it emerged that an app developer working for the analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had allegedly set up a tool that accessed the information of tens of millions of Facebook users without their explicit knowledge.

Cambridge Analytica, which later went on to work for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, had used a personality quiz on Facebook to gather data on not only the users who took the quiz, but also their Facebook friends.

According to the lawsuit, Rankwave operated at least 30 apps on Facebook’s platform between 2010 and 2019. Among them, an app designed to measure a user’s “popularity” on Facebook by analyzing the number of interactions the user had with others.

Facebook said it began investigating Rankwave in June 2018, but it wasn’t until January of this year that Facebook formally asked the South Korean firm if it had misused Facebook users’ data.

Facebook also says Rankwave has not cooperated with requests to determine what user data Rankwave may have used and how.

The company said that Rankwave was using Facebook’s services as recently as last month. On Friday, Facebook said it had suspended Rankwave.

“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,” Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, said in a statement.

But Ashkan Soltani, a privacy expert and former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), told CNN Business Saturday that Facebook giving third party developer access to user data has inherent risks.

“Fundamentally, Facebook’s model of allowing developers to access and use consumers’ data off of its platform is at odds with the duties and statements Facebook makes about creating a safe environment for consumers,” he said.

Facebook is expecting to be fined as much as $5 billion by the FTC for previous data privacy violations.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.