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Facebook drops six-month ban on developers who sold user info

In working to shut down a hole by which some Facebook application developers “inadvertently” wound up sharing Facebook user IDs with third parties, Facebook says it stumbled across instances were data brokers were paying developers to collect Facebook user IDs and contact lists. Collecting and reselling Facebook user IDs is a violation of Facebook policy, so Facebook is banning the developers from the Facebook platform for six months.

“Facebook has never sold and will never sell user information,” wrote Facebook’s Mike Vernal, in a blog post. “We also have zero tolerance for data brokers because they undermine the value that users have come to expect from Facebook.”

As a result of the leaked Facebook User IDs, Facebook says it is requiring developers delete any user IDs they have obtained—through whatever means—and switch to a new anonymous identifier mechanism Facebook is planning to release to developers this week. By January 1, 2011, developers will be required to use the new anonymous identifiers, and those anonymous IDs will be included in Facebook’s category of protected information, meaning developers may not transmit those IDs outside their applications, code, or services required to run their applications. In other words, passing them along to third parties is forbidden.

Developers who have found themselves banned from Facebook for collecting user IDs will be able to get back onto Facebook after the ban if they submit their apps to a full audit and confirm they now comply with Facebook policies. Facebook says the bans were handed down to fewer than a dozen “mostly small developers,” and did not impact any of Facebook’s top ten applications.

The only third party called out by Facebook is the ad-targeting firm Rapleaf, which Facebook has identified as one of the data brokers which had been purchasing UUIDs. Facebook indicated it has “reached an agreement” with San Francisco-based Rapleaf that will see the company deleting all Facebook user IDs in its possession and which ends Rapleaf’s involvement with any Facebook application, now or in the future.