Facebook has suspended analytics firm Crimson Hexagon amid apparent concerns it may have carried out wide-spread surveillance of users.
The social media firm said it had launched an immediate investigation after questions were raised about how Crimson Hexagon was using data collected from the site.
The firm, based in Boston, describes itself as offering “consumer insights” and claims to have collected more than a trillion public social media posts from sources including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.
As well as government work, Crimson Hexagon has had deals with commercial companies including Adidas, Samsung and the BBC.
Cromson Hexagon had its access to Facebook and Instagram shut off on Friday when it emerged it may have violated the platform’s surveillance policies.
The move came after The Wall Street Journal queried Crimson Hexagon’s contracts with the US government, as well as a Russian not-for-profit enterprise with ties to the Kremlin, and Turkish government agencies.
“We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate.”
But he added: “Based on our investigation to date, Crimson Hexagon did not obtain any… information inappropriately.”
He said representatives from the two companies would be meeting in the coming days.
In a blog entry posted by the firm on Friday, Crimson Hexagon chief technology officer Chris Bingham defended the company’s work – without specifically mentioning Facebook’s investigation.
“Crimson Hexagon only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access,” he wrote, seeking to distance his firm from Cambridge Analytica, the firm which allegedly used an app to scrape private data from the network.
Mr Bingham added: “The real conversation is not about a particular social media analytics provider, or even a particular social network like Facebook. It is about the broader role and use of public online data in the modern world.”