The developer of an app banned from Facebook is refuting the company’s allegations that the app might have misused user data.
This week, Facebook announced that myPersonality app makers refused an audit -- and shared information with researchers and companies with very few protections in place. Facebook is now notifying about 4 million people who shared their information with myPersonality that their data might have been misused.
MyPersonality was a Facebook app that allowed its users to participate in psychological research by filling in a personality questionnaire. It also offered them feedback on their scores.
But the creator of myPersonality, David Stillwell, a deputy director at the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge, issued a statement to KQED denying Facebook’s claims. Stillwell says that, as part of his agreement with Facebook, the data were used for research purposes only. Stillwell also argues the app hasn’t been in use since 2012. The ban, he says, is purely cosmetic.
"Facebook has long been aware of the app’s use of data for research," Stillwell wrote in a statement to KQED.
"In 2009 Facebook certified the app as compliant with their terms by making it one of their first 'verified applications,' " Stillwell wrote. "In 2011 Facebook invited me to a meeting in Silicon Valley (and paid my travel expenses) for a workshop organized by Facebook precisely because it wanted more academics to use its data, and in 2015 Facebook invited my then colleague Dr. Kosinski to present our research at their headquarters. It is therefore odd that Facebook should suddenly now profess itself to have been unaware of the myPersonality research and to believe that the data may have been 'misused.' "
Stillwell says important research papers have been published from myPersonality users who opted to share their data for anonymised research. "Research published with myPersonality data warning about the privacy risks of Facebook data (such as Facebook Likes) has had major policy impact through citations in UK, EU, Australian and Dutch government data policy reports."
Facebook began an investigation of third-party apps in March after Cambridge Analytica misused data for nearly 87 million users through the "This Is Your Digital Life" app.
Since then, Facebook says it has suspended more than 400 apps because of concerns over use of data. The social media company says it has also expanded its "app review" policy, which stipulates that no information from your Facebook profile will be shared with apps if you haven’t used them in 90 days.