Facebook struck deals with at least 60 smartphone and tablet makers – including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung – over the past decade that granted them “deep” access to personal data, according to a report.
The social media giant launched software 10 years ago that allowed the companies to access the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent – even after it declared it would no longer share such material with outsiders, The New York Times reported.
Some device makers were able to retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The Times reported.
The newspaper said the unfettered access continued even after Facebook agreed with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 to better protect data and only share it after getting users’ express consent.
The deals granted the companies access to a user’s relationship status, political leaning, educational history, religion and upcoming events, according to the news outlet.
On Monday, Facebook pushed back against the report.
Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships, said in blog post that Facebook has maintained tight control over the technology, known as application programming interfaces, or APIs, and that it is unaware of any abuse by the companies with which it teamed.
“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” Archibong said in the blog.
“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,” Archibong added.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement Monday that “the news that Facebook struck ‘data-sharing’ partnerships with other corporations is yet another reminder of the many questions that remain unanswered.”
“Consumers have the right to know how their personal information is being used; and the companies we trust with our information have a critical responsibility to protect it,” she added.
Facebook has already been under scrutiny from regulators and shareholders after it failed to protect the data of about 87 million users that was shared with the now-defunct political data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Archibong said these cases were “very different” from the use of data by third-party developers in the Cambridge Analytica case.
In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to answer questions about data the company provided to third parties about their users.
Late last month, he testified before European Union lawmakers and apologized for the way Facebook has been used to produce fake news, interfere in elections and gather people’s personal information.
With Post wires