Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft were all among the companies to have a data-sharing partnership with Facebook over the last 10 years, according to The New York Times. Without explicit consent, device makers were allowed to access data of users’ friends, even after Facebook said it would not share such information.
A Facebook statement in response to the report denies that information belonging to friends of users was shared without permission. The data sharing was reportedly an issue as early as 2012.
“This was flagged internally as a privacy issue,” Sandy Parakilas, who then led Facebook’s privacy compliance.
She added; “It is shocking that this practice may still continue six years later, and it appears to contradict Facebook’s testimony to Congress that all friend permissions were disabled.”
The Times reported some device makers had access to user data such as relationship status, religion, political leaning and events. It also found the data of users’ friends could be accessed, despite data sharing being turned off.
On April 10,CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a rare US Senate joint committee in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A week earlier it emerged that data firm Cambridge Analytica may have gotten access to the data of up to 87 million users, and most of Facebook’s 2 billion users may have had their personal data skimmed by “malicious actors.”
Beginning in 2014, Facebook began ending the access app developers had to users’ friends data, which included names, birthdays, and even political or religious leanings. But The Times report suggests major device makers were not restricted by the same policy.
Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, responded to The Times’ article with a blog post titled, “Why We Disagree with The New York Times.” He confirmed the use of the data sharing agreements with around 60 companies — including Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft, and Samsung — which were used to allow users to access Facebook back before there were app stores and standard operating systems.
Archibong said the rise of iOS and Android meant few people rely on the bespoke Facebook experiences these companies used to provide, which is why the company began “winding down” the partnerships in April, having ended 22 so far.