Home Reaction To FTC’s Facebook Charge: No Like

Reaction To FTC’s Facebook Charge: No Like

The Federal Trade Commission says Facebook charged app developers for services it never provided. More than developers, it was the social giant itself that seems hurt the worst by the incident.

The FTC says Facebook collected about $95,000 from app developers who each paid up to $375 per app to get a Facebook stamp of approval saying the company had reviewed their work and found them to offer “trustworthy user experiences.” The problem is that Facebook handed out these designations without performing the tests, according to an FTC investigation.

The allegations were included in an FTC report that is part of an ongoing monitoring program that Facebook agreed to in settling previous FTC charges in November. The program ran from May to Dec. 2009.

That’s a slap not only at developers, but at users of their apps, according to Brooklyn Law School professor Jonathan Askin.

“The more disturbing aspect of Facebook’s verification process is not that it misled and extracted money from developers, but that it misled Facebook users into thinking that certain apps had been vetted and found trustworthy without having actually vetted the apps,” Askin said. “If users cannot even trust Facebook’s self-asserted, written, privacy policies, users will become increasingly skeptical of whether they can trust Facebook as a social-networking and communications platform.”

A Facebook spokeswoman would not comment on the FTC investigation. Not so for social-media participants. A query on social-media search engine Kurrently found posts accusing Facebook of lying.

Brian Cardarella, founder and president of DockYard, a Boston-based developer of corporate apps, said “There was once a time when Facebook was seen as an example for how companies should allow developers to hook into a platform, but that time has long since passed.”

Cardarella said, “It is interesting to see that while more technology barriers are being thrown in front of (would-be Facebook integration) developers, there seems to be little to no concern internally at Facebook for the developers that have gotten through the gate.”

He said he is concerned that developers may not be getting everything they pay for when they integrate with Facebook. This incident comes soon after reports that as many as 83 million Facebook accounts, or about 8% of the social network’s total accounts, may be fake.

Both developments “should give pause to those considering integrating with Facebook,” Cardarella said.

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