Facebook Freezes App Developers Working in Messenger

Author Note. Last year we created the area’s first ChatBot for getting information on Michigan’s Thumb. It’s been used 100’s of times and development continues. Overnight we were informed that Facebook is placing a “pause” on any new Bot development. Its uncertain if ThumbBot will be affected. For the record ThumbBot does not collect any user data other then your username. 

Yesterday, Ime Archibong, VP Platform Partnerships and the head of Facebook’s Messenger platform made an announcement yesterday that will affect the Bot developer community.

Facebook is putting a pause on approval reviews on those applications under development that utilize Messenger and link to Pages. Facebook is undergoing an investigation of all applications installed prior to 2014. At that time, Facebook placed restrictions on applications access to Facebook user data. The social network is looking for applications that have access and misuse personally identifiable information. (PII) collected from users on the platform.

Privacy Concerns With the World’s Largest Social Network

The application pause is likely due to the fallout to a story that ran on in the New Zealand Times Herald which told of a developer discovering that phone calls and texts made with his Android phone was being collected by Facebook.

This latest news is on top of reports last week of Facebook user data collected by the UK firm Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 US Presidential election. During the election, the Trump campaign allegedly used a Cambridge Analytica Facebook App to collect the personal data of 50 million users. Over this past weekend, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out ads in newspapers in the U.S. and UK to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica scandal. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook faces potential fines up to $40,000 per user for personal data accessed without their permission.

Facebook also outlined that other changes will be made to the Messenger platform to protect user data. One new change is that users are informed if an application they are using is found to have misused their personal data. Developers and applications will have to agree to stronger Terms and Conditions along with tougher encouragement for users to manage their data.

Bot Development on Facebook Messenger Affected

Bot development platform Chatfuel informed their users overnight about this development. Chatfuel posted a notice to its base of users indicating, “Facebook is asking developers to temporarily disable the ability for their apps to connect new bots to pages.” It noted that all Messenger Bots currently connected to a Page will not be affected.

Next Steps for Messenger Uncertain

Facebook has not offered a timetable as to when investigation will conclude and pause lifted.

The official notice from Facebook is below.