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Facebook bans myPersonality app for potentially mishandling data



Ime ArchibongFacebook VP Ime Archibong.Getty

  • Facebook is warning 4 million users that an app called “myPersonality” may have mishandled their personal data.
  • It took action on “myPersonality” after failing to submit to the Facebook app auditing process. It’s been under investigation since April. 
  • It’s an incident similar to how the Cambridge Analytica scandal got started. In fact, the academic at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica incident contributed to “myPersonality.”

Facebook will warn 4 million users that the app “myPersonality” may have mishandled their personal data, according to a blog post by Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.

The app was “mostly active before 2012,” writes Facebook VP Ime Archibong, and is now banned from the platform. And there’s no indication that “myPersonality” had access to the data of its users’ Facebook friends, so it will only notify those affected.

This is evocative of the origins of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the users of an app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” and that of those users’ friends, had their personal data improperly obtained by a political research firm with ties to the Trump presidential campaign. All told, the incident affected as many as 87 million Facebook users. 

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook instituted an app auditing process, where it would go through and vet every app that integrated with the social network — past and present — to make sure that it didn’t mishandle or resell the personal data that it gathered, in violation of Facebook’s policies. 

However, Archibong writes that “myPersonality” came to Facebook’s attention after “failing to agree to our request to audit and because it’s clear that they shared information with researchers as well as companies with only limited protections in place.”

In other words, while Facebook either can’t or won’t say how the data gathered by “myPersonality” was used, it’s confident enough that the data was mishandled to take action. 

Read more: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress about Cambridge Analytica and Russia

Notably, Facebook has been investigating “myPersonality” since at least April, when it suspended the app from the site. It was reported in May that the app had some 6 million users, 40% of whom shared their personal data with the site.

Also of note is that Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who created “thisisyourdigitallife,” also contributed to “myPersonality,” which was created in 2007 by Dr. David Stillwell at the University of Cambridge.

We’ve reached out to Dr. Stillwell for comment and will update if we hear back. However, an automated e-mail response indicates that he is out of the office until August 28th.

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