Facebook offered users privacy wall, then let tech giants around it

Jermaine Castillo
December 20, 2018

The outlet reported that the two companies, along with the Royal Bank of Canada, also had the ability to write and delete users' private messages.

Some deals date to 2010 and all were active through 2017, with some still in effect this year.

Facebook defended its data sharing practices Wednesday after a report revealing that certain partners of the social network had access to a range of personal information about users and their friends.

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An investigation by the New York Times revealed Netflix, Spotify, and the Royal Bank of Canada as companies that Facebook granted access to its users' private messages, while other companies like Amazon, Sony, and Microsoft, were given access to information on users' Facebook friends.

Facebook argues that its partners abide by their privacy settings, and that they see the partners as an extension of Facebook - thus, the company says it is not violating a 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent decree saying that it can not share data without permission.

Revelations of Facebook's partnerships with Netflix, Spotify, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon were detailed in hundreds of internal Facebook documents obtained by The Times. "But people had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first to use a partner's messaging feature". In some cases, companies had access to these data years after it was supposed to have been revoked. "Partnerships are one area of focus and, as we've said, we're winding down the integration partnerships that were built to help people access Facebook", he said. "Our API provided partners with access to the person's messages in order to power this type of feature".

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In a separate statement posted on Facebook's website, the company said it had not violated the FTC agreement.

'We know we've got work to do to regain people's trust, ' Mr Satterfield added. Compelling features often require access to more information than people expect, and when that data-sharing is explained in layman's terms, things they were fine with suddenly become outrageous. Apple, responding to the publication said that any data of that magnitude will never leave the device. Facebook even admitted that it "mismanaged" a few partnerships, stating it continued to offer companies access to user data even after they deprecated the features that needed the data. Facebook also allowed Microsoft's search engine Bing to see the names of "virtually all Facebook users' friends" without their consent, and let Yahoo access "streams of friends' posts as recently as this summer".

Last week, it was reported that a bug may have exposed millions of Facebook users' private photos to third party apps. "However, we shouldn't have left the APIs in place after we shut down instant personalization".

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"Any shared data would remain on the devices and be available to anyone other than the users", the statement read.

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