Facebook has formed data-sharing partnerships with 60 device makers, including Apple and Microsoft, giving them access to information of users and even their friends, a media report has claimed, weeks after the social media faced massive backlash for improperly sharing personal data of up to 87 million people.
The New York Times yesterday revealed the partnerships, shedding new light on the social media giant’s behaviour related to customer data in the wake of a scandal involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook, which was founded in 2004, has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials were quoted as saying by the report.
The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.
The agreements that Facebook entered raise “concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree” with the Federal Trade Commission, the report said.
“Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders,” the daily said reporting the results of its investigation.
Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.
In interviews with The New York Times, Facebook, however, defended its data sharing agreement and asserted that these are consistent with its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users.
“These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president told the daily.
Unlike developers that provide games and services to Facebook users, the device partners can use Facebook data only to provide versions of “the Facebook experience,” the officials were quoted as saying.
“You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy. But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device and if it can be accessed by apps on the device it creates serious privacy and security risks,” Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps, told the daily.
The report comes as Facebook has come under scrutiny for its handling of private data after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica accessed millions of users’ private information.
In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had admitted making a “huge mistake” as personal data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.