Developers rush to patch

In the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, there have been a myriad of changes impacting users of Facebook and Instagram content recently. These changes were made without any notice and were effective immediately which has impacted third-party apps worldwide.

Albeit the speed in which the changes have been made is likely to have been partly driven by the pressure to tighten data practices and potentially align certain timing as CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before Congress next week to answer questions about the company’s privacy and data policies.From the perspective of everyday users accessing the content you know and love via the Facebook and Instagram apps will see little to no change. For developers like us on the other hand, the impacts are significant and are only a hint of what is yet to come.In case you missed it, the changes made have been many and impact all third-party apps, whether legitimate or not.

Given the changes have been quick, varied and came without prior notification, we’ve pulled together a quick summary of a few that left developers and other third-party content users of these content feeds frustrated:

Instagram have removed 17 ways of accessing content

This means something as simple as code to access recent posts of a public company, suddenly stopped working. Quick changes had to be made to use alternative methods.

Facebook & Instagram have removed access to many fields

Fields like how many followers a user has, or how many posts you have made, but many more have gone.

25x drop in Instagram content

The Instagram API restricted the flow of content by 25x, meaning that public posts previously being collected has been reduced significantly, requiring different approaches to be taken that are more efficient.

These are only a few of the changes that have happened with more expect in future. With CTO Mike Schroepfer commenting that they will lock down access, review previously allowed apps, and then hand out access to the apps that deserve it.

While this is promising from the perspective that Facebook is taking action to breath some confidence back into their data practices, it will still be interesting to see how they now start to crack down on third-party apps that are using and abusing content. With the advent of AI and machine learning, the content which appeared innocuous can now be exploited and abused in the wrong hands. That means Facebook is forcing all apps that have previously been approved for accessing Events, Groups and Pages, have to be reviewed again.

For the developers working on these changes behind the scenes, it's a difficult process but something we monitor constantly to ensure the client experience is supported, and uncompromised. While at times frustrating, it’s also fascinating to watch the complexities of todays interconnected environment play, shift and unfold.

Ian Young,
Isentia Technical Architect