Facebook suspends data firm in fresh probe

Facebook suspends US-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over data concerns

In its quarterly report, Facebook said that its ongoing investments in safety, security, and content review will identify additional instances of misuse of user data.

Facebook said it was looking into whether some of these deals were in violation of its policies on surveillance.

In a blog post today, Crimson Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said the company "only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access" and it "does not collect private social media data".

Facebook has suspended a Boston-based analytics firm as the company probes the types of data the firm harvested from the platform and whether its contracts with the USA government and a nonprofit tied to Russia's government violate company policies.

Crimson Hexagon has signed 22 contracts with the US government worth over $800,000 according to the newspaper, which cites federal procurement data.

"Facebook has a responsibility to help protect people's information, which is one of the reasons why we have tightened" access to users' personal information, Facebook's vice president for partnerships Ime Archibong told the Journal. "We take these allegations seriously, and have suspended these apps while we investigate".

Facebook said on Friday that Crimson Hexagon is co-operating and that so far its investigation has not found evidence that the firm obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately. It boasts of being able to analyse more than 160m photographs posted online every day. The brands it has worked with include Adidas, Samsung, GM, Walmart and General Mills, according to its website. Shortly after, Facebook changed its policies to prohibit its partners from using any data for "surveillance".

Exactly what Facebook means by "surveillance" isn't clear, but it seems Crimson Hexagon has questions to answer over how aggressively it's been tracking users on Facebook and Instagram. People can share their information with developers on Facebook and Instagram - just as they can when they download an app on their phone.

In fact, Crimson Hexagon pays Twitter for access to a large amount of tweets; considering that Facebook has restrictions on the amount of data that can be collected by third parties, Crimson Hexagon collects more data from Twitter than from Facebook. He added that the company allows firms like Crimson Hexagon to produce "anonymized insights for business purposes".

Crimson Hexagon did not respond to requests for comment from the BBC.

In a separate emailed statement, Bingham also said the company was "fully cooperating" with Facebook and that the social media giant has "to date has found no wrongdoing".

"The real conversation is not about a particular social media analytics provider, or even a particular social network like Facebook".

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