Facebook files lawsuit against data analytics company One Audience

Facebook has filed a lawsuit in the US against a New Jersey-based data analytics company, One Audience.

Facebook claims One Audience improperly accessed and collected Facebook’s user data by paying app developers to install a malicious Software Development Kit (SDK) into apps.


Security researchers first flagged One Audience’s alleged behaviour as part of Facebook’s data abuse bounty program. The program was announced in April 2018 in a bid to “more quickly uncover potential abuse of people’s information”. Facebook said the program will reward people with first-hand knowledge and proof of cases where a Facebook platform app collects and transfers people’s data to another party to be sold, stolen or used for scams or political influence.

It was one of a number of reactions by Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal which blew up in March 2018 when it came to light that Christopher Wylie had revealed Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles and used it for targeted political advertising.

Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and engagement, Jessica Romero, said Facebook had already taken a number of actions prior to pursuing legal action – including disabling apps, sending a cease and desist letter, and requesting an audit – but that One Audience declined to co-operate.

“This is the latest in our efforts to protect people and increase accountability of those who abuse the technology industry and users,” she said. “Through these lawsuits, we will continue sending a message to people trying to abuse our services that Facebook is serious about enforcing our policies, including requiring developers to cooperate with us during an investigation, and advance the state of the law when it comes to data misuse and privacy.”

In its financial results in January, Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was keen to spruik the company’s efforts and progress on privacy and foreign election interference, and said the company no longer needed to be “liked”, and was less worried about offending people.

He flagged too that he wants more guidance and security in the form of laws and regulations, so private companies aren’t making decisions which affect democracy and data.

“When it comes to these important social issues, I don’t think private companies should be making so many important decisions by themselves. I don’t think each service should individually decide what content or advertising is allowed during elections, or what content is harmful overall. There should be a more democratic process for determining these rules and regulations. For these issues, it’s not enough to make principled decisions – the decisions also need to be seen as legitimate and reflecting what the community wants. That’s why I’ve called for clearer regulation for our industry. And until we get clearer rules or establish other mechanisms of governance, I expect we and our whole industry will continue to face a very high level of scrutiny,” he said.

And late last month, it was revealed Facebook would cancel its developer conference, F8, in the wake of fears around the spread of coronavirus.


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