Facebook accused of sharing your personal data with OEMs

Nichole VegaJun 08, 2018

Facebook Inc. has formed data-sharing partnerships with 60 device makers, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., giving them access to information of users and even their friends, a New York Times report has claimed.

"Even further they're sharing the Facebook data of peoples' friends, even those people who have opted out of sharing information with third parties", says Suzanne Kantra of Teclicious.

These revelations potentially contravene a settlement Facebook made with the FTC in 2011, in which the company was required to ensure it obtained consent from users if their data was shared beyond their chosen privacy settings.

The New York Times reports that device makers were able to access data of users' friends, such as relationship status, religion, and political leaning.

In return, Facebook would allow these companies to access the data of users and their friends without their explicit consent.

However, Facebook blasted back at the Times report, saying the newspaper has misinterpreted the goal and function of its so-called "device-integrated APIs" - the software that allows hardware companies to bridge into Facebook's database to offer versions of the app on their operating systems. The New York Times report comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but Facebook said that the private APIs in question were "very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers, like Aleksandr Kogan" of Cambridge Analytica.

According to the publication's article, Facebook had formed a partnership with dozens of companies in an effort to help them supposedly "recreate Facebook-like experiences" on their particular devices. The reporter discovered that one Blackberry app was able to acquire "identifying information" for up to 295,000 Facebook users.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, the Ranking Member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he was "deeply concerned" by the Times' report, saying it was the "latest example of Facebook only coming forward when forced to do so by a media outlet".

Archibong says the APIs were created to fill a demand for mobile Facebook which the company couldn't fulfill alone, and were thus necessary. In addition, Archibong said that fewer partners now rely on APIs - and the company announced in April it was winding down access to them, already ending 22 of the partnerships.

The social network added that it was not aware of there being any abuse of the shared data.

Apple, whose CEO has criticized Facebook over its privacy holes, told the Times that it had used its access to allow users to post photos without opening the Facebook app. Quartz reached out to Apple, Blackberry, Amazon, and Samsung for comment, and will update this story with any response.

Lax policies around sharing data with third parties led to the leak of information to consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on successful Republican campaigns, including that of President Donald Trump.

Facebook is trying to skirt around the fact that it is unaware of how the data was used by device manufacturers.

A Microsoft representative said the company started working with Facebook in 2008 but said no data was synced with Microsoft servers as it was stored locally on the phones powered by Microsoft. It also found the data of users' friends could be accessed, despite data sharing being turned off.

We will remind, the General Director of Facebook mark Zuckerberg has apologized to the European Parliament for the mistakes of the social network in connection with the scandal with the leak of information.

Among other controls, Archibong insists that Facebook made partners sign agreements that prevented user information from being exploited.

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