Over the last month, Facebook has made significant changes to how they handle privacy, and therefore the data they make accessible to developers and partners. The scale of these changes warrants some background as it impacts the actions third parties, such as Lexer, can run on behalf of brands.

The background to these changes starts in 2014. Cambridge Analytica and their partners manipulated Facebook’s APIs and abused their Terms of Service. The exposure of that story in March has made customer data a mainstream media topic. On 17 March Facebook responded and commenced a series of changes to Facebook and Instagram, with varying impact.

Unfortunately, in this turbulent time, Facebook and Instagram have taken action before communicating with users, developers, and partners. In many cases, we have learned of these changes through new errors in the platforms which have later been validated by industry media.

As such, we’d like to share with you the actions we are taking to provide continuity of service.

We have summarised this in three ways:

Changes: that Facebook have made
Impact: to the services Lexer provide you
Action: Lexer is taking to remedy the changes

Following is the relevant series of events:

2015
Change: In response to discovering that an entity related to Cambridge Analytica was manipulating a Facebook API and not adhering with their Terms of Service, Facebook made changes to align their policy with their API and thus prevented ongoing abuse.
Impact: Cambridge Analytica’s partner was unable to continue to exploit the security weakness in Facebook’s API.
Action: N/A

7 February 2018:
Change: Facebook comments have their author information removed.
Impact: Facebook comments are made anonymous unless being used for Customer Service. Usernames and avatars are no longer provided for comments on posts unless the content exists on an integrated page.
Action: Lexer altered its products to handle the reduced data scope, altered the user interface to handle the now missing author information. We also informed users of the change.

17 March 2018:
Change: Facebook announces they have suspended Cambridge Analytica’s account for violating the company’s standards and practices. The Facebook announcement is available here: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/03/suspending-cambridge-analytica/
Impact: Media awareness.
Action: None.

28 March 2018:
Change: Facebook announced that partner categories in Facebook Advertising will be “winding down over the next six months”. The Facebook announcement is available here: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/h/shutting-down-partner-categories/
Impact: Facebook has not yet announced what this means beyond the summary provided.
Action: Lexer is working with Experian and Facebook to better understand our ability to target Facebook users via Experian data, however, as it currently stands the product is still available. This does not impact your ability to target people using your first-party data.

30 March 2018:
Change: Facebook announces it will not review new Developer Applications, and Users or Pages authenticating new services on existing Developer Applications is disabled until the review process is complete. The Facebook announcement is available here: https://developers.facebook.com/status/issues/104197713763517/
Impact: New and existing clients cannot integrate new Facebook pages into the Lexer platform. Facebook has not disclosed any timeline for re-enabling authentication.
Action: Lexer made immediate changes to its authentication flow to handle the new errors, we also informed users of the change.

31 March 2018:
Change: Instagram reduced the number of requests third-party services can make on their APIs. Greatly reducing the amount of public content they can extract.
Impact: The rate at which all third parties can consume public content reduced by 95% without warning. Data from your own integrated accounts are not affected.
Action: We took immediate action to optimise the number of requests being made on the Instagram API, and also reduced the amount of content we were requesting for low-priority topics in an attempt to ensure the high-priority topics were being monitored and extracted. We also informed our users of the change.

4 April 2018:
Change: Facebook made an official statement on the changes that they are making: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/04/restricting-data-access/
Impact:

  • Facebook Events created by your page no longer provide access to the posts and comments that are made by users.
    Instagram comments on public posts (those created by the community) are no longer available.
  • Interacting with comments made on your own Instagram posts (responding and liking) has been disabled for all third parties until they migrate to the new API. The ability to monitor Instagram content through Listen and Engage is still functional. However, the change means that you are unable to respond or like Instagram content in Engage. You can still manage your workflow as you would normally, by adding classifications and closing. The difference is you’ll need to click on the object’s link to take you through to Instagram and reply natively.
  • Integrating new Facebook Pages with all applications (such as Lexer Engage) is disabled until Facebook complete their review process.

Action: Lexer is immediately updating our integrations with Facebook and Instagram to align with the new API’s, however, these updates are unable to be completed until the Facebook review process is complete.

Summary

The impact to the services Lexer provide are minimal. The changes that Facebook have made to their APIs impact everyone – all developers, not just Lexer. These changes are generally actioned before the market is notified.

We are putting maximum resources into keeping up with the rate of change and will continue to keep you abreast of the changes that impact the delivery of our service.

Lexer has and will always strictly adhere to the terms of service governing data we consume from public sources like Facebook. We will continue to dedicate significant resource to monitor, respond to and communicate all changes that impact our clients.

We will provide ongoing updates and our success team are available at any time to discuss the changes, impact, and actions.