Facebook fears government-tied firm abused user info

The Facebook logo in 2012 is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia

The Facebook logo in 2012 is displayed on an iPad in Philadelphia

The development comes after the data firm Cambridge Analytica was discovered to have gained unauthorized access to up to 87 million Facebook users' data, mainly in the United States.

In a blog posting, Crimson Hexagon Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said the company "abides completely" by the rules social media sites including Twitter and Facebook put in place to limit the ways third-party companies can use their data.

Facebook says that it has suspended Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon while it investigates how it collects and shares Facebook and Instagram's user data. Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that it wasn't aware of some of Crimson Hexagon's contracts but said today that it would suspend its apps while it investigates further. The firm said it sticks to information that anyone can publicly access, and does not collect private data and tried to draw a clear distinction between its behavior and that of Cambridge Analytica. The social network is under investigation by three federal agencies over its links with Cambridge Analytica, and, since the crisis erupted, Facebook has suspended more than 200 apps that had access to its data.

Facebook said it has not yet found any evidence that Crimson Hexagon obtained data improperly but it has suspended the company while it conducts its investigation. "No one using Crimson Hexagon would be able to learn anything about an individual that isn't already contained in publicly-available data".

However, Facebook is looking into whether the company has violated any of its policies regarding the collection, sharing, and storage of user data. "We take these allegations seriously". Facebook said the analytics company is cooperating with the probe.

"Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other non-government customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public's perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them", he wrote.

"Crimson Hexagon only allows government customers to use the platform for specific approved use cases; and under no circumstances is surveillance a permitted use case", Bringham wrote. He added that the company allows firms like Crimson Hexagon to produce "anonymized insights for business purposes".

Crimson Hexagon has signed 22 contracts with the US government worth over $800,000 according to the newspaper, which cites federal procurement data. The brands it has worked with include Adidas, Samsung, GM, Walmart and General Mills, according to its website.

The situation with Crimson Hexagon comes after revelations about info on up to 87 million Facebook users may have been improperly sold via a third-party researcher with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked for Donald Trump's 2016 US presidential campaign to target Facebook users.

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