Facebook Kills Friends Data API Over User Privacy Concerns

Come April 30th, Facebook is shutting down the Friends Data API, which let third-party apps access users’ friend lists. The original intent behind the API was to allow developers to create more personalized apps, but privacy concerns forced Facebook’s hand. 

All developers need to migrate their apps to Graph API version 2.0 at the end of the month. Developers have had a year to prepare for this change. Facebook’s timeline clearly shows the end-date for Graph API 1.0. Beginning May 1st, all apps need to be using at least Graph API 2.0 (Facebook debuted Graph API 2.3 in March of this year). The forced migration means the Friends Data API is going dark. Apps not updated will go dark, too. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees this as a net positive, even if it causes some pain for developers along the way, reports TechCrunch. Zuck’s new slogan? Facebook is “people first” — which apparently also means “developers second.”

According to Facebook’s research, if users aren’t confident about their privacy they won’t use Facebook. Period. In order to boost user confidence in the platform, Facebook has (slowly) begun to realize that it needs to return privacy controls to its users. One way to do that is to eliminate the Friends Data API, which let people share their friends’ data to third-party developers — even without their friends’ permission. 

“If people don’t feel comfortable using Facebook — and specifically logging into Facebook and using Facebook apps — we don’t have a platform and we don’t have developers," said Facebook Product Manager Simon Cross. 

How much pain are we talking about for developers? Plenty. Job Fusion relied on the Friends Data API to pull users’ friends’ work data in order to show them relevant job openings at these companies. The loss of the Friends Data API means Job Fusion is shutting down entirely, says TechCrunch. Jobs Fusion isn’t alone. Other apps facing the API Grim Reaper include CareerSonar, Jobs With Friends, and Adzuna Connect.

It’s also worth pointing out that the change to Graph API 2.0 requires third-party apps to use Facebook’s new login system. The updated login gives end users more granular control over exactly what data they share with third-party apps. 

The Friends Data API may be going away, but Graph API versions 2.0 - 2.3 offer developers huge opportunities to create new and interesting apps for Facebook users. Don’t mourn the loss of APIs that were questionable to begin with; instead, take advantage of the updated and more powerful tools in the latest APIs from Facebook. 


Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.




" Zuck’s new slogan? Facebook is “people first” "

If true, we will see more changes in the near future in Facebook standards.

Facebook (like most other companies) doesn't uphold a transparency policy yet. Also, their partnerships  (https://www.sherbit.io/facebook-partners-with-shadowy-data-brokers-to-fa... for example) leave little trust with their largest demographic. Sure, their other recent move of adjusting app permissions was a step in the right direction, but it still doesn't allow for the knowledge of what's happening with the data that users are sharing.

I'm interested to see what else is coming for the user.