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August 13, 2012

Facebook accused by FTC of deceiving developers over security

The Federal Trade commission says Facebook deceived developers by not verifying the security of their applications.

By Tineka Smith

The social network was paid to review and verify the security of developer applications which it did not actually do. It is reported that Facebook was paid up to $95,000 to give developers its green tick of approval and show it had passed a test for "trustworthy user experiences."

The Verified Apps programme ran from May 2009 to December 2009. Apps that paid to be verified would receive a Verified apps badge that was displayed on the application’s page on Facebook.

Verified applications would then receive a green checkmark as well as a higher rankings in Facebook search results.

According to the FTC in order to apply for a verified apps badge developers had to pay Facebook a fee of $375. Students and non-profit organisations had to pay fee of £175. Facebook awarded the verified apps badge to 254 platform applications.

In a Facebook statement in 2011, the social network described its Application Verification programme:

"Application Verification Facebook is introducing the Application Verification program which is designed to offer extra assurances to help users identify applications they can trust — applications that are secure, respectful and transparent, and have demonstrated commitment to compliance with Platform policies. Verified applications will benefit from added visibility on Facebook. The program is a complement to Facebook’s ongoing policy enforcement to keep the Platform ecosystem robust."

Yet, an investigation by the FTC revealed that before awarding a verified badge Facebook had taken no actions to verify the security of the application or the security of a verified applications’ website.

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"In many instances Facebook has permitted a Platform Application to display its Verified Apps badge when its review of the application’s security has not exceeded its review of other Platform Applications," said the FTC in a statement. "Therefore, the representation constitutes a false or misleading representation."

Facebook has also been charged of deceiving its users by repeatedly allowing their information to be shared and made public after telling users it would keep their information private.

Facebook shared personal information with advertisers despite its promise not to and kept the content of users who deleted or deactivated their accounts accessible after telling users the content would be inaccessible.

Facebook has agreed to 20 years of audits by the FTC and if Facebook violates any term in the final settlement it is liable for "civil monetary penalties" up to $16,000 per violation per day.

Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.

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