Facebook reveals privacy flaw in Groups

Facebook has said that it has discovered a privacy flaw on its platform that lets some app developers access data in Groups that they should not have.

In a statement on the Facebook developers site they said :-

Before April 2018, group admins could authorize an app for a group, which gave the app developer access to information in the group. But as part of the changes to the Groups API after April 2018, if an admin authorized this access, that app would only get information, such as the group’s name, the number of users, and the content of posts. For an app to access additional information such as name and profile picture in connection with group activity, group members had to opt-in.

As part of our ongoing review, we recently found that some apps retained access to group member information, like names and profile pictures in connection with group activity, from the Groups API, for longer than we intended. We have since removed their access. Today we are also reaching out to roughly 100 partners who may have accessed this information since we announced restrictions to the Groups API, although it’s likely that the number that actually did is smaller and decreased over time. We know at least 11 partners accessed group members’ information in the last 60 days. Although we’ve seen no evidence of abuse, we will ask them to delete any member data they may have retained and we will conduct audits to confirm that it has been deleted.

These were primarily social media management and video streaming apps, designed to make it easier for group admins to manage their groups more effectively and help members share videos to their groups. For example, if a business managed a large community consisting of many members across multiple groups, they could use a social media management app to provide customer service, including customized responses, at scale. But while this access provided benefits to people and groups on Facebook, we made the decision to remove it and are following through on that approach.

Duncan Newell

Duncan is a technology professional with over 20 years experience of working in various IT roles. He has a interest in cyber security, and has a wide range of other skills in radio, electronics and telecommunications.

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