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

05 June 2018, 12:01 | Myrtle Hill

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.

But Facebook said that this was only done to help offer a mobile service.

A response that is really par for the course for BlackBerry and as noted, the data was not used in the same manner as Cambridge Analytica.

However, upon seeing what these "partnerships" are really capable of, The New York Times connected one of their reporter's Facebook accounts to a 2013 BlackBerry phone via the Hub app.

Furthermore, it quoted an ex-FTC official saying that Facebook's behaviour was at odds with privacy commitments it had made to the public in 2014.

It could also access other information, including unique identifiers, on 294,258 friends of his friends. This includes address book integration, photo sharing, and more.

Facing blowback from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal in March, Facebook vowed that it had put an end to that kind of information sharing, but never revealed that device makers had a special exemption.

Similar to how the company initially reacts every time such a story breaks, Facebook is disputing these claims this time too.

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Kogan developed an app that required people to sign in using their Facebook accounts - and that then harvested data about those users and their friends, that was then used by Cambridge Analytica to develop psychological profiles of USA voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. It also said that the features couldn't be used with permission and that its engineering teams approved all of them. And Facebook stressed in a blog post it is "not aware of any abuse by these companies". In April, multiple committees on Capitol Hill had peppered him with questions about Facebook's dealings with Cambridge Analytica.

According to Archibong, 22 of the partnerships have already ended.

Parakilas told the Financial Times that while Facebook said it had blocked apps from acquiring the data held by app users' friends, "in the case of hardware manufacturers they didn't do that".

"This limitless data sharing of users has to stop", Verhofstadt said.

According to the report, Apple stopped accessing Facebook data last September, while Microsoft used its access to the data for notification and contact purposes only, holding no data on its own servers. It added that newer Blackberry-branded Android handsets do not use the APIs.

It is not yet clear what legal ramifications this NYT article will have on Facebook, as this could be construed as proof that Facebook directly lied to regulators. At the center of that consent decree is a requirement that Facebook be more transparent about the data it collects about its users.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who previously introduced legislation for a "privacy bill of rights", said the "secret data sharing partnerships" add "urgent new reasons for stronger privacy protections-beginning with a privacy bill of rights modeled on Europe's new rules".

Facebook is on the defensive again over how it handles people's personal data.



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