Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Facebook gave 60 device makers "deep access" to user data

Facebook gave 60 device makers

Facebook's Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships at the social network, wrote a detailed post in response to The New York Times report in which he noted that several years ago, demand for mobile versions of Facebook outstripped that company's ability to make version of the social networks to suit each operating system and device.

This is but another skeleton out of Facebook's closet, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of the US Congress.

An app developer gave information on up to 87 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica mostly without their permission, setting off a scandal over data privacy when it was reported this year. The company also failed to identify alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.

Facebook told the New York Times that data sharing through device-integrated APIs adhered to its privacy policies and the 2011 FTC agreement.

Though the company claimed that the company's device partners can use the data to only provide "the Facebook experience", these companies can access data about a user's Facebook friends, even those who have denied the social media company permission to share information with third parties.

Facebook is under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and users around the world over its handling of users' data and the steps it takes to protect their privacy.

The partnerships were briefly mentioned in documents the company submitted to German legislators investigating its privacy practices.

The issue here is not that a Facebook user can access data about friends and friends-of-friends-it's that they're giving a non-Facebook company's software access to that information. "I would never have imagined that this might even be happening secretly via deals with device makers".

Microsoft told the NYT that all shared data involved was held locally on users' phones and not copied to its servers.

As part of its investigation, a reporter for the paper logged onto Facebook using a 2013 Blackberry device, and then monitored the data requested and received.

Facebook reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones.

"These contracts and partnerships are entirely consistent with Facebook's F.T.C. consent decree", said Mr. Archibong, a Facebook official. "All these partnerships were built on a common interest - the desire for people to be able to use Facebook whatever their device or operating system".

According to the post, partners signed agreements preventing the data from being used for anything other than "Facebook-like experiences" on devices.

In certain instances, manufacturers could retrieve personal information from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing.

"We're not aware of any people's information being misused by these companies", Archibong said.

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