Facebook has suspended another data firm from its platform over potential policy violations. The suspension comes at a time when Facebook is dealing with the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was made public earlier this year. The firm called Crimson Hexagon was temporarily suspended while an investigation on whether it has violated data sharing policies has already started. Facebook’s decision came after a Wall Street Journal report revealed that Crimson Hexagon had struck deals with US government agencies and a Russian organization with ties to the Kremlin to analyze Facebook data.
According to Facebook, preliminary investigations so far show that the data company didn’t obtain user data from the platform or from Instagram inappropriately. However, there’s still a need to investigate the matter further. The social media platform also confirmed that Crimson Hexagon was cooperating in the probe.
Facebook has said that developers are not allowed to build surveillance tools using information obtained from the platform. The company said these kinds of allegations are serious and added that suspending the affected apps to allow for an investigation was the right thing to do. Crimson Hexagon’s CTO, Chris Bingham, said in response to this investigation that his company allowed governmental customers to use its service for specific approved cases. However, the company made it clear that under no circumstances is surveillance part of its services or business engagements.
According to the CTO, Crimson Hexagon simply provides a means for its clients to understand the public’s perception, sentiment, and preferences regarding matters that concern them. He also stated that governmental customers have pursued the services offered by Crimson Hexagon for the same reason that non-governmental customers have. The company made it clear that it collects and uses only publically available data that “can be accessed by anyone.” This is very different from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which private data was obtained inappropriately.
The Boston-based company maintains a database of over 1 trillion posts from social media. These posts cut across various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Facebook’s policies don’t prevent third-party companies from collecting and using public posts. There are also options on the platform for users to authorize sharing of their information to developers.
Crimson Hexagon has often bragged that it has the largest amount of unstructured text data from social media platforms. The company works with a number of huge clients including Paramount Pictures, General Mills, Adidas, General Motors, and even Twitter. The firm was founded 10 years ago by Gary King, a Harvard-based professor of quantitative social science. Ever since, the firm has attracted investments from venture capital firms to expand its operations across the US.
It’s not clear how this recent suspension will affect the firm’s business. Although the data firm collects information from a wide range of social media sites, Facebook and Instagram have the biggest share of users compared to other sites. The only thing Crimson Hexagon can hope at the moment is that this investigation will be completed as soon as possible and its name is cleared of any wrongdoing.