Facebook attempts to win over hostile developers after privacy lockdown

Mark Zuckerberg speaking at Facebook's F8 conference in 2017 - REUTERS
Mark Zuckerberg speaking at Facebook's F8 conference in 2017 - REUTERS

Facebook has endured a wave of criticism from regulators, politicians and its users in recent weeks after revelations about how it protects people's data. On Tuesday, the social network will face a different but equally-hostile crowd - the app developers that have for years relied on that data.

On Tuesday evening Mark Zuckerberg will open Facebook's annual F8 conference, a jamboree for the software developers whose apps and games are built on top of the social network.

Developers are pushing for answers after Facebook launched an investigation into apps that collect using large amounts of user profile data in March, leading the company to freeze approval of new apps.

The F8 conference in San Jose, California, is typically used to outline future innovations to Facebook's business partners. Last year it outlined research into mind-reading technology and social virtual reality. Other future-gazing projects included research into helping deaf people hear through vibrations into their skin.

This year, however, the company has been forced to reign in its developer community in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw a university researcher develop a quiz app that allowed him to harvest data on 87m Facebook users, which was then sold on against Facebook's privacy rules.

The company suspended reviews for new apps in March following the revelations, leading to delays in how the new games and apps that run on Facebook are developed. The company expects 5,000 developers to attend the conference.

Facebook app - Credit: Getty
Cambridge Analytica used data gathered by a Facebook app Credit: Getty

Facebook's online forum for app developers has been bombarded with comments from users worrying about their app launches. Facebook said it expects to re-open app reviews for its Messenger app and Facebook "in the coming weeks".

"Implementing additional data protections for people, developers and businesses using our platforms is our top priority," Facebook partnerships head Ime Archibong told developers. "We appreciate your patience while we make these updates and we look forward to interacting with our tech community at F8."

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica | The story so far
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica | The story so far

Since March, app developers have pushed Facebook to confirm when new apps will be allowed on to the social network following the lockdown. Scott Ritter, a developer at Firecracker Software, said on the forum: "If we are to fast track our development only to have the opportunity squandered by a months-long wait, you'll not just lose the trust of users but of developers as well."

Facebook responded. "It is essential that we get the necessary platform updates in place. We understand this is not an ideal situation and we appreciate your patience."

Improving security on Facebook could also be a key theme of the event. The second keynote address at F8, following chief executive Mark Zuckerberg's opening speech, will be from the company's head of security Alex Stamos on "Security at Facebook Scale".

Facebook virtual reality - Credit: Bloomberg
Facebook is expected to use the event to show off advances in virtual reality Credit: Bloomberg

The event will also provide a chance for Facebook to showcase its virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for developers, according to attendees. The company has been pushing social experiences through its Oculus virtual reality headsets. "Facebook will be sharing the ways media and entertainment developers can take advantage of the virtual reality ecosystem," Navah Berg, a marketing executive attending F8, told the Telegraph.

Facebook's head of virtual reality Andrew Bosworth said earlier this year the conference would feature "the biggest AR/VR news from Facebook to date".

Technology intelligence - newsletter promo - EOA
Technology intelligence - newsletter promo - EOA