Facebook have quietly published the news that they have filed a lawsuit against Rankwave, a South Korean ‘data analytics company’ that ran apps on the social platform. According to Facebook, they are “investigating Rankwave’s data practices in relation to its advertising and marketing services.” By doing so, the social giant is “sending a message to developers that Facebook is serious about enforcing [its] policies.”
How serious they are is open to questioning. This announcement was made late on Friday afternoon, deciding it’s not big enough news to list on their main newsroom page. Similarly, according to legal filings, Facebook became aware of Rankwave in June 2018, but took roughly six months before they even contacted Rankwave for information. These are not the actions of a multi-billion dollar company taking its policies ‘seriously.’
The issue at hand is once again that a third-party firm was able to use Facebook’s platform to harvest personal data, in part through their own Rankwave app, and partly through integration with other developers’ apps.
Rankwave’s app asks users to log in with their Facebook credentials then assesses every data point it can to build advertising profiles and ascribe people with ‘social influencer scores’. What makes this even more worrying is that the company was active from 2012, and so until Facebook updated their policies in 2015, the apps could potentially have scraped data on people’s friends’ profiles, too.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook are seeking monetary compensation for user data and legal fees, as well as forcing Rankwave to submit to a full audit following the deletion of all Facebook data.