Facebook Scrambles to Meet Security and Accessibility Needs

The upcoming deprecation of version 1 of Facebook’s Graph API has had developers long preparing their applications to work with the latest version of the API. The change has had at least one unintended effect, possibly leaving some motor-impaired Facebook users unable to use their news feed.
 
As reported last week, Tobii, the makers of Tobii Communicator, a Windows-based eye-tracking application, had to this point been unable to update the app in a way that would meet Facebook’s new guidelines. For nearly a year, Facebook has enforced a policy that gives users more control over the information they share with apps. Under the new API, a user can grant a third-party app access to Facebook while blocking the app from viewing their news feed which would include posts from the user’s friends that may not have the app installed. Any apps that wanted access to a user’s news feed are now required to get special approval. Additionally, Tobii has said that “Facebook does not want to grant these permissions to third-party Windows applications, as they prefer users to use their web-interface or official Windows 8 app.” Because Tobii Communicator runs on Windows, the inability to get permission to view a user’s news feed essentially leaves Windows users unable to use Facebook in any meaningful way.

Tobii has since let it be known that the Facebook accessibility team has reached out to them and that they are working with Facebook to get approval for Communicator to access users’ news feeds. ProgrammableWeb reached out to Facebook for details on what changes are being made that will allow the Tobii app to stay operational. A Facebook spokesperson said:

“We don’t have any details to share on what changes will be made, as the conversation with Tobii is ongoing. But we can confirm that we’re working with Tobii to identify a way they can continue to offer their services while ensuring people have control over their information.”

When asked if these changes would allow similar apps to Tobii (i.e., third-party, Windows-based apps) to stay operational as well, the spokeperson replied:

“We’re working with Tobii to identify a way their app can continue to operate. For other apps, as we’ve announced previously, they’ll still need to apply for access to this part of the Facebook API via the Login Review process.”

App security will remain a major issue as it should. It is encouraging, however, to see examples of providers willing to explore solutions that keep security a priority while also meeting accessibility needs.
 

Wendell Santos is the editor at ProgrammableWeb.com. You can reach him at wendell@programmableweb.com. Connect to Wendell on Twitter at @wendell78 or Google+.

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