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Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook said Friday that it’s suing Rankwave, a South Korean company that analyzes social media users’ data for marketing purposes.

“Facebook was investigating Rankwave’s data practices in relation to its advertising and marketing services,” said Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, in a blog post. “Rankwave failed to cooperate with our efforts to verify their compliance with our policies, which we require of all developers using our platform.”

Facebook alleges in the lawsuit — filed Friday in California Superior Court in San Mateo County — that Rankwave breached a contract with the social network and violated a California law that prohibits unfair, unlawful or fraudulent business acts. Since 2010, Rankwave operated at least 30 apps on the Facebook platform and used data tied to those apps to create and sell advertising and marketing tools, which violated Facebook’s rules, the suit alleges. Facebook also claims that Rankwave wasn’t answering questions it had during an investigation into the company’s data practices.

In the court filing, Rankwave denied it violated Facebook’s rules but the social network says the company didn’t provide enough proof. 

The lawsuit highlights how Facebook is trying to show the public and developers that it’s taking privacy seriously in the wake of a series of scandals. Last year, revelations surfaced that UK political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of up to 87 million Facebook users without their consent. 

Rankwave operated different types of apps that businesses and consumers used. Rankwave’s apps had to obtain user consent before they could access any Facebook data.

A South Korean department store, tourism organization and baseball team used a Rankwave app to analyze and track information on their Facebook pages. A Facebook page is a public profile created by businesses, organizations and public figures.

The company also operated the “Rankwave app,” which allowed users to calculate their “social media influencer score” by analyzing how many people interacted with a Facebook post. That app is no longer on the Facebook platform as of March 2018. 

Facebook started investigating Rankwave in June 2018 and discovered the company wasn’t complying with its developer policy. That’s because Rankwave used Facebook Pages data tied to its apps for its own “business purposes” such as providing “consulting services” to advertisers and marketers. 

“To date, Rankwave has not participated in our investigation and we are trying to get more info from them to determine if there was any misuse of Pages data,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

The social network also tried to find out this year if Rankwave was using user data to provide marketing and advertising services. But Rankwave failed to give Facebook the information it requested, according to the lawsuit. 

Facebook suspended apps and accounts tied to Rankwave, but didn’t share which ones. Facebook didn’t respond to questions about what type and how much user data may have been gathered by Rankwave.

Rankwave didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Facebook argues in the lawsuit that Rankwave’s alleged misconduct harmed the social network’s reputation, public trust and goodwill. 

Originally published May 10, 4:44 p.m. PT.
Update, 6:07 p.m. PT: Includes background from lawsuit and statement from Facebook. 



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