SAN FRANCISCO — On the same day Facebook announced that it had carried out its biggest purge yet of American accounts peddling disinformation, the company quietly made another revelation: It had removed 66 accounts, pages and apps linked to Russian firms that build facial recognition software for the Russian government.
Facebook said Thursday that it had removed any accounts associated with SocialDataHub and its sister firm, Fubutech, because the companies violated its policies by scraping data from the social network.
“Facebook has reason to believe your work for the government has included matching photos from individuals’ personal social media accounts in order to identify them,” the company said in a cease-and-desist letter to SocialDataHub that was dated Tuesday and viewed by The New York Times.
Facebook gave the companies until Friday to detail what data they had taken and then delete it all.
The case illustrates a new reality for Facebook. SocialDataHub and Fubutech have been around for at least four years, relying in part on Facebook data to build products that might alarm some civil-liberty advocates.
As Facebook is taking a closer look at its own products amid increasing scrutiny and public outcry, it is increasingly finding examples of companies that have been exploiting its global social network for questionable ends.
SocialDataHub and Fubutech also present another challenge because, Facebook said, at least some of their data collection occurred through web scraping.
The exposed data included relationship status, birth date, hometown, education and the 15 most recent searches, Facebook said.
Facebook said on Friday that hackers were able to access the personal information of 14 million people through a security flaw that the company first disclosed last month, and that the data exposed included information such as recent check-ins and searches.
Facebook said in a blog post that people would be able to check whether they were affected by the attack by visiting a Facebook help center online. The company also said that in the coming days it would send customized messages to users to explain what information might have been accessed.
The social networking company disclosed two weeks ago that a security flaw in Facebook’s “view as” feature had allowed hackers to see into and potentially take over people’s profiles.