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Facebook permanently banned a developer after he made an app to let users delete their news

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  • The developer Louis Barclay made a tool called Unfollow Everything for Facebook users.
  • The extension removed Facebook users’ News Feed by mass-unfollowing friends and pages.
  • Barclay says he got a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook in July and was kicked off its platform.

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A developer who designed a tool to let people essentially delete their Facebook news feeds says he was served with a cease-and-desist letter and permanently kicked off the tech giant’s platform.

Louis Barclay, a developer in the UK, is the creator of a browser extension called Unfollow Everything. The extension lets users automatically unfollow all their friends and pages on Facebook, leaving their news feed blank. Barclay told Insider people could still connect to their friends and family on Facebook when using the extension.

Barclay published Unfollow Everything on the

Google Chrome
store in July 2020 and said it attracted attention from researchers at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, who wanted to study the impact of having no news feed on people’s happiness on Facebook, as well as the amount of time they spent on the platform.

In July of this year, Barclay received a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook’s lawyers, he said. Barclay published a redacted version of the letter online. Insider reviewed an unredacted version to verify its authenticity.

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Barclay, who published a Slate article on Thursday detailing his experience, told Insider he received the letter five hours after trying to log into his Facebook account and finding it was disabled.

The letter, from the law firm Perkins Coie, told Barclay that Unfollow Everything broke Facebook’s rules on automated collection of user content without Facebook’s permission and that it infringed Facebook trademarks.

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It also said Facebook’s terms prohibited interfering with the “intended operation of Facebook” and encouraging others to break Facebook’s rules.

It also informed Barclay he was barred from both Facebook and Instagram.

“I was really scared, and I was very anxious,” Barclay told Insider.

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Facebook’s letter took him by surprise, he said, adding that Unfollow Everything had only 2,500 weekly active users and 10,000 downloads.

“It was definitely growing, but it wasn’t huge,” he said.

“Apart from that I just very much saw it as something that improves the Facebook experience for Facebook users,” he added, saying he got “amazing feedback” from people saying they “were using Facebook in a way that was much healthier for them.”

Barclay said he sought legal guidance on whether he could challenge the letter but learned that since he’s based in the UK he’d be liable for Facebook’s legal costs if he lost.

“Facebook is a trillion-dollar company. I couldn’t afford that risk,” Barclay wrote in his Slate article.

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Barclay said getting banned after having an account on Facebook for 15 years was a blow, especially because he still used the platform, and Facebook Messenger in particular, to stay in touch with friends around the world.

“It’s really horrible to have been cut off from that for a reason that feels to me very unfair,” Barclay told Insider.

Nonetheless, he sees a silver lining in getting cut off from Facebook.

“I’ve been trying to reduce my usage of Facebook for years now, including by making tools like Unfollow Everything. So I’m actually pretty grateful to Facebook that they’ve helped me take my addiction levels down to a flat zero,” he told Insider.

See also  Facebook to pay $650 million settlement to users over photo tagging

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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