Facebook shared the data of users and their friends with scores of mobile phone manufacturers without explicit consent, it has emerged.
As an example of how device makers in the partnership with Facebook have special privileges involving members' data, a reporter for the New York Times logged into Facebook using the Hub app. The New York Times said the vast amounts of information shared with Apple and other phone-makers included data on users' friends that had supposedly barred access. Apple CEO Tim Cook said Monday the company doesn't have an agreement in place for access to Facebook users' data.
The Times said Facebook allowed 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. Opting-out of third-party data mining in your Facebook settings had no effect on these companies' ability to see your and your friends' data. This new exposé is simply adding fuel to the fire, and it's not quite clear how Facebook is going to get through this without some serious repercussions.
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This would mean that the likes of Apple and Samsung have had potential access to user data for some time. And Facebook stressed in a blog post it is "not aware of any abuse by these companies". "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".
"You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy".
The agency is already investigating if Facebook ran afoul of that accord in another matter: allowing a political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, to access 87 million users' personal data, including the pages they had "liked" on the site.
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"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences", Ime Archibong, Facebook's VP of product partnerships, said in a blog post. It's hard to remember now but back then there were no app stores. It argued that those device partners are not third parties but are, in fact, "service providers" and are, therefore, entitled to the same data access as Facebook itself. "Individuals cannot be expected to be able to weigh the risks and benefits of sharing their personal information, when the transaction is mostly completely opaque by design and they can't trust what companies are telling them".
It defended its use of software tools called application programming interfaces (APIs), which it said had been developed to create "Facebook-like experiences" on smartphones at a time before use of its own mobile apps became commonplace. In April, multiple committees on Capitol Hill had peppered him with questions about Facebook's dealings with Cambridge Analytica. Those same data protection principles were applied to the BlackBerry Facebook app which was developed using a Facebook device-integrated API for BlackBerry which enabled our handset customers to access Facebook functionality on their BlackBerry devices.
The agreements required the third-party companies to use the information only for the intended objective of integrating features into users' devices, Facebook says.
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"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences", Facebook wrote.