Facebook Limits Search Features As Part Of API Shutdowns

Earlier this week, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer ran through a list of APIs the company said it would shut down after Cambridge Analytica gained access to data on about 87 million users. One of those APIs supports search and account recovery.

Until Wednesday, Facebook users could enter someone's phone number or email address into the Facebook search box to help find them. Even in Bangladesh, this feature made up about 7% of all searches. The problem, Schroepfer says, is that data thieves abused the feature by scraping public profile information.

The company also tightened limits on the type of information developers could gather from a handful of Facebook services, such as Events, Groups and Pages. 

“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” Schroepfer wrote in a post. “So we have now disabled this feature. We're also making changes to account recovery to reduce the risk of scraping as well.”



Facebook also decided to disable the Instagram API platform -- making the changes immediately, rather than waiting until July 31, which it previously announced. Instagram will restrict sharing data with apps.

The moves follow Facebook’s decision last week to shutter its Partner Categories product, which allowed third-party data providers to offer targeting options directly on Facebook.

 Acxiom CEO Scott Howe believes Facebook’s blog post reveals reasons why Facebook might reconsider its new policies.

“Our world is becoming more data-driven with each passing day,” Scott wrote in a post dated March 29. “Thousands of companies rely on ethically sourced third-party data to better serve their customers and have done so for decades. Now is not the time to make walls thicker or higher.”

Scott believes this should be a time for the industry to “rally around principles of transparency, choice” and to emphasize a commitment to ensuring that consumers remain at the center of the experience.

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