A major online privacy scandal is brewing amid a new report claiming Facebook gave personal information its users thought was private to a wide range of companies that make electronic devices.
Facebook “formed data-sharing partnerships” with 60 companies including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung, The New York Times reported Sunday.
“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who used to serve as chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook, however, said neither it nor the companies with which it formed partnerships did anything wrong.
In a post on Facebook’s blog, the company’s vice president of product partnerships reiterated the social media giant’s stance that the device-integrated application programming interfaces were controlled tightly.
“Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built,” Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president, wrote on the company’s blog.
Archibong said the partnerships had limited access and only allowed companies to see how Facebook worked on the devices they were building.
“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” he wrote.
“We are not aware of any abuse by these companies,” Archibong added.
The new revelation comes months after a scandal involving the group Cambridge Analytica, which accessed about 89 million Facebook users’ information without their knowledge. That news triggered an FTC probe into whether Facebook’s actions broke the terms of consent decree the company signed with the FTC in 2011.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress to help calm the waters of the scandal.
This is a really big deal. It appears to directly contradict Facebook’s testimony to Congress in April. https://t.co/fpDR7PvG5I
— Sandy Parakilas (@sandyparakilas) June 4, 2018
Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have “complete control” over who sees our data on Facebook. This needs to be investigated and the people responsible need to be held accountable. https://t.co/rshBsxy32G
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) June 4, 2018
The Times report, meanwhile, alleges that 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 companies with which Facebook works had access to personal information of Facebook users’ friends who thought they had blocked any sharing, The Times said.
“It’s worrying that so many companies had access to this data, particularly in light of security and privacy concerns,” Michael Veale, a British technology policy expert, told CNN. He said it was “hugely possible that other apps on some devices could have been mining this data if the privacy and security controls were lax.”
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