Fb Is Investigating A Voter Engagement App Used By Italy’s 5 Star Motion

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LONDON – An app for voter behavior used by the populist party, the leading coalition government partner, is under investigation by Facebook as part of a broader investigation into the potential misuse of historical data.

Five Star Movement (M5S), an anti-establishment party that won the most seats in the 2018 Italian general election, launched the app in 2013, the year the party's breakthrough on the national stage.

The Attivista 5 Position – 5 Star Activist – App invited M5S supporters to do tasks on Facebook, e.g. B. Share posts, promote campaign events, and add the party's logo to profile pictures in return for points. The top scoring activists would win a dinner with M5S co-founder, former comedian Beppe Grillo.

A Facebook spokesman said an app investigation was underway. There is currently no evidence that data has been misused by the developers of the app.

"The Attivista 5 Stelle app is currently not active on our platform and has not been active for over a year," the spokesman said in an email statement to BuzzFeed News. "We are currently investigating the app as part of the App Developer Investigation."

The Facebook investigation into app developers started in March last year in response to the scandal of Cambridge Analytica, the British company for political advice and voter profiling , which has harvested information from up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission in one of the biggest data protection violations of the social network. The violation was first discovered by the Observer and the New York Times. As a direct result, Facebook's market value fell by more than $ 36 billion, and the company's founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was testified before the congress.

Although the Attivista 5 digit app from M5S was removed from Facebook by web developers last year, a Facebook login button is still visible on a cached version of the app's login page, about the existence of which the Italian website Linkiesta earlier this First month.

By examining the parameters contained in the login button URL, you can see the permissions that users have granted the app. It shows what data the app may have accessed not only from the people who used it, but also their friends.

The list of permissions granted, all of which were currently legally accessible through Facebook's API, included:

  • About Me

    ]

  • Birthday

  • Events

  • Groups

  • Heimatstadt

  • Interests

  • Likes

  • Religion

  • Politics

  • Location

  • Information from friends about me

  • Fr iends & # 39; Birthday

  • Events from Friends

  • Groups of Friends

  • [1 9459003]
  • hometown of friends

  • interests of friends

  • friends' preferences

  • Religion and Politics of Friends

  • Permissions to access users' email addresses, read streams, and Creating events and posting to user streams

The cached privacy page of the Attivista 5 Stelle app shows that Casaleggio Associati, a technology company founded by M5S co-founder Gianroberto Casaleggio, is for handling was responsible for data collected via the app. The company, which is now managed by Casaleggio's son Davide, is umbilical cord-bound to the M5S. BuzzFeed News previously announced that M5S websites and Grillo's popular blog had similar settings for handling their data.

A spokesman for Casaleggio Associati told BuzzFeed News that the app was not processing all of the data that was technically accessible via Facebook at the time, and the data it was using was limited to essential features like allowing users to change their profile picture and check how many friends were using the application.

In addition to asking activists to add The M5S logo on Facebook profiles, a 2014 blog entry promoting the app lists various other actions users can take. This included calls to invite friends, make a donation to the party, publish the M5S manifest in users' feeds, and promote events and candidate lists.

friends. The spokesman added that the company has already given answers to Facebook questions.

Facebook's App Developer Investigation has reviewed millions of apps and exposed tens of thousands. Facebook investigates apps based on signals that are associated with potential data abuse and other potential policy violations, as well as concerns about how the information that should be shared with an app may have been used.

This is an investigation Facebook was still unable to share additional details about its test, including the total number of users whose data was accessed through the app. Casaleggio Associati said the company could not provide numbers for the users and activities of the app because it no longer had access to the deleted data.

Therefore it is not known exactly how many users the app had and how much data was collected in the five years BuzzFeed News was active? However, it is estimated that BuzzFeed News can access millions of people's personal information.

Marco Canestrari, who worked between January 2007 and June 2010, worked as M5S Community Manager and informed BuzzFeed News that the party had had about 30,500 activists at the time. Facebook itself announced in 2014 that Facebook users in Italy had an average of 300 friends, which Canestrari estimates would lead to the total pool of direct users connected via the app and their friends being significantly seven figures. Canestrari worked for Casaleggio Associati before becoming a whistleblower and writing two books on the M5S. The company contested the estimate.

Critics like Canestrari argue that the unusually close relationship between the M5S party and Casaleggio Associati means that the latter, a private company, controlled the data – and this raises important questions about what it faces in the sector to which the company operates could possibly have used this data.

The Casaleggio Associati spokesman said: “All data used by the application was used only for the public functions of the application, then deleted and was therefore not used for any other purpose. “

There is no evidence that the data collected through the app has been sold to third parties or has been otherwise misused.

During the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, Facebook announced in 2014 that developers 'access to friends' data was being blocked due to privacy concerns.

The cached pages for the login page of the M5S app between mid-2014 and 2017 reflect these changes. The URLs linked via the Facebook login buttons indicate the app requesting access to the user's email address and request a list of a user's friends who also use the app, as well as permission to perform relevant actions in the Publish a user's profile.

Casaleggio Associati said the app was only used actively in 2013 and 2014. After that, it was only possible to see the ranking of the competition that the M5S went through, said a company spokesman.

] The Italian data protection agency informed BuzzFeed News that it had received several reports identifying the app and investigating the case as usual.

The M5S did not respond to a request for comments.

Lam Vo contributed to this story.

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