Facebook gave user data to 60 companies including Apple, Amazon, and Samsung

Gerardo Harmon
June 8, 2018

Facebook, which is already under scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users' data after the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal became public, reportedly allowed the device companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent. The story says Facebook began winding down the partnerships in April, but raises questions about whether they violated a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. In an article entitled "Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends", the New York Times raised concerns about the social network's privacy practices.

Facebook has rejected claims by the New York Times that its sharing of personal data with smartphone firms represented a breach of privacy pledges that it had made to its members and a U.S. regulator.

In a blog post on Monday, Facebook VP Ime Archibong wrote that the company worked closely with device makers to ensure that they only used the data to "recreate Facebook-like experiences" on their phones.

In a piece entitled "Why We Disagree with The New York Times", Facebook pushed back strongly against the claims.

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While Facebook says these agreements were important and that it had tight control over these partnerships from the get-go, even company employees weren't happy allowing outside companies to access their users' data. At no time did BlackBerry collect or mine the Facebook data of our customers.

Archibong says the APIs were created to fill a demand for mobile Facebook which the company couldn't fulfill alone, and were thus necessary.

Unless you keep close track of which devices all of your Facebook friends are using at any given time, you won't know which manufacturers have access to your data.

Numerous partnerships, with companies such as Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung, remain in effect even after Facebook began to quietly unwind them in April, according to a lengthy report in the New York Times.

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Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements. A new report has revealed that Facebook may have given partners such as Apple, Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, and BlackBerry far too much access not just to Facebook users' data but even those of their friends as well.

When Facebook first started out, the company made at least 60 deals with device OEMs to preload the application on their devices. Cambridge Analytica obtained the data it had without Facebook's permission and used it to help the election campaign of US President Donald Trump. While Archibong never made explicit reference to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal that broke in March, he differentiated the practices under examination by the Times from those of third-party developers, the category Cambridge Analytica falls under, per Reuters. "And if we find that someone improperly used data, we're going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected", he added.

Amazon and Samsung haven't yet provided comment.

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