Facebook Allows Manufacturers Like Samsung, BlackBerry, And Apple Access To User Data

Christoph Dernbach  DPA via ZUMA

However, Facebook officials denied the device partnerships violated its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users. The New York Times said the vast amounts of information shared with Apple Inc. and other phone-makers included data on users' friends that had supposedly barred access.

On April 24, weeks after CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified to Congress about user privacy, Facebook said in an announcement to developers that it was winding down access to device-integrated APIs.

Even before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, Facebook had data-sharing partnerships with the device makers, the report said citing company officials, adding that most of the deals remain in effect.

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 newspaper said the information collected by the software included the IDs, birthday dates, work details and educational histories of numerous journalists' friends, as well as identifying information about many more friends-of-friends. 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.

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Facebook has issued a response to the article with a post titled "Why we disagree with the New York Times". "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". This means that the software of companies including Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Microsoft and BlackBerry gets to plug into Facebook's systems and access data that does not belong to the specific person who's using that software.

Facebook and other internet companies are grappling with a global backlash over the extent to which they hoover up and handle user data. Most notably, this was done after the Cambridge Analytica scandal that now has governments across the world demanding more protection for consumers.

Mark Zuckerberg had admitted that data of users may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica. "These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform", Facebook vice president Ime Archibong told NYT. 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. "And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built", he continued. "Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends' information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends".

"We're not aware of any people's information being misused by these companies", Archibong said.

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