Facebook Shuts Down Apps That Sold User Data, Bans Rapleaf

Rapleaf LogoThis afternoon Facebook announced a crack down on developers who were involved in the sale of user IDs to companies like Rapleaf. The full details were articulated on the company’s developer blog and emails were sent to developers.

We’ve obtained an email that was sent to one of the developers. That email stated the following:

From: Facebook Platform Policy Team
Subject: Policy Enforcement of your Applications

As you know, we have been investigating sharing of Facebook User ID (UIDs) on the platform. Our policy has always stated that any Facebook user data, including UIDs, cannot be shared with data brokers and ad networks. The violation of these policies is something we take seriously, and today we are taking actions that will impact your application(s).

As we examined the circumstances of the UID transfers discovered recently, we were particularly concerned about any evidence of explicit UID sharing with data brokers. Unfortunately, there were clear instances where data brokers were paying a small number of developers for UIDs. Out of less than a dozen applications, your application(s) were identified for explicitly selling UIDs to a data broker. This is in direct violation to policy FPP II.8 (http://developers.facebook.com/policy/).

As a result, we are instituting a 6-month full moratorium on access to Facebook distribution channels (bookmarks, requests, stream) for your existing applications. During this time, you will need to submit your data practices for these applications to an audit to certify compliance to Facebook policies. After your practices have been reviewed, you will be able to create new applications in direct coordination with our team.

We hope to have your full cooperation throughout this process and look forward to building a positive long-term relationship with your team. We believe the steps taken today are appropriate and necessary to ensure people stay in control of their information, while providing you the tools you need to create engaging social experiences.

Platform Policy Team

Just like that Facebook has shut down any developers that were involved in under the table transactions. Unfortunately we’re not sure about the technical aspects of one application to the next, however Rapleaf has now been effectively banned from the Facebook Platform. Given all the discussion surrounding Rapleaf and the inquiries into the less-than-transparent nature of the company, it’s not surprising to see Facebook take this action.

It’s clearly an unfortunate thing for Rapleaf who has now had their reputation permanently scarred despite having varying data on users (for me they barely have any information despite my public nature). It will be interesting to see how this evolves, but Facebook is clearly responding to the public backlash in recent weeks that began with the Wall Street Journal sensationalizing the leaking of users’ Facebook IDs.