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Looks like Facebook overreacted with that Boston data firm it suspended last month

Published Aug 16th, 2018 8:30PM EDT
Crimson Hexagon regains access
Image: Gombert/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

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Facebook acted fast last month to suspend a Boston-based data analytics firm, Crimson Hexagon, from accessing Facebook and Instagram once reports surfaced suggesting the social network might have another Cambridge Analytica flap on its hands.

Turns out, everything’s fine now.

The data firm’s CFO wrote in a blog post today that access to its Facebook and Instagram accounts has been restored after a full review by Facebook. “After several weeks of constructive discussion and information exchange with Facebook, we are very pleased to report that Facebook and Instagram reinstated Crimson Hexagon and our entire customer base will now be able to once again access those data sources on our platform,” Dan Shore wrote.

“Several of Facebook’s questions focused on a small number of our government customers, which represent less than 5 percent of our business. Historically, we have vetted potential government customers similar to our other customers — with a goal of understanding their proposed use of our platform in order to make them successful. To our knowledge, no government customer has used the Crimson Hexagon platform for surveillance of any individual or group.”

His firm’s suspension last month was pretty high profile, with coverage in outlets like the Wall Street Journal noting the firm’s clients have included a Russian nonprofit connected to the Kremlin.

In a statement given to the WSJ at the time, Facebook vice president for product partnerships Ime Archibong said the social media giant allows outside parties to use its data to produce “anonymized insights for business purposes.” But Facebook forbids “use of its data for surveillance purposes.” The paper went on to note that Crimson Hexagon, which boasts a repository of more than 1 trillion public social media posts, “pulls only publicly available data from Facebook and Twitter. However, it appears at least once to have mistakenly received private data from Instagram, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The paper reported that that 2016 incident stemmed from Crimson Hexagon getting hold of some private Instagram posts in a batch of hundreds of public ones. Crimson Hexagon didn’t know who to call about it, because they didn’t have a direct line or contact yet at the social network.

Shore, meanwhile, said today that Crimson Hexagon has “enhanced” its vetting procedures for government customers. “We are hopeful that our extended dialogue with Facebook will lead to a strengthened and deepened Facebook partnership that will help our customers draw increased value from public online information on both of our platforms.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.