Published: Wed, June 06, 2018
Industry | By Johnnie Johnson

Senators demand answers from Facebook after data sharing report

Senators demand answers from Facebook after data sharing report

The Times points out that the 2011 consent decree with the FTC barred Facebook from sharing data about users' friends with third parties.

Critics of the company say that the device-integrated APIs are a violation of that control, however, allowing device makers a direct line into user data.

Going all the way back to 2007, the company created partnerships with various device makers that allowed for private data channels between the device-maker companies and Facebook, reports The New York Times.

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 FTC is now investigating Facebook's privacy practices in light of the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal.

But privacy advocates have fretted that users may not have been aware of the extent that data about them, or their friends, had been transferred in the process.

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Facebook has also said that the kind of access to users' data that Cambridge Analytica exploited in 2014 was cut off in 2015, when Facebook shut down its API for giving friends' data to apps.

Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon were among the companies who signed up to data sharing agreements using the APIs.

"I think there is a lack of transparency for users across many platforms" not just Facebook, the U.K.'s Information Commissioner, told the civil liberties committee of the European Union institution in Brussels on Monday evening.

"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.

Blumenthal and Markey also implied that Zuckerberg wasn't totally accurate when he told Congress that users had "complete control" over how they shared info and how people saw it. According to the Times, however, an exemption was given to the device makers and they reportedly kept the access to the data.

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Archibong said the rise of iOS and Android meant few people now rely on the bespoke Facebook experiences these companies used to provide, which is why the company began "winding down" the partnerships in April, having ended 22 so far. "We tightly controlled these APIs from the get-go", Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, said in an interview.

Brace yourselves, Facebook users: another privacy scandal may be afoot. They're just extensions of Facebook itself, helping the company to serve its two billion users. Apple and BlackBerry said that they only get enough information to be able to view users' messages or post to their Facebook accounts without opening up the app. Microsoft says that all Facebook data it collects is stored locally on the phone and never on Microsoft's servers.

The partnerships between Facebook and device-maker companies like Apple, Samsung and others were allegedly formed in order to expand Facebook's reach and custom software during a time period when social media apps were not widely available on smartphone and tablets.

The partnerships themselves are no big secret - Facebook has been cultivating them for years, and they're often announced publicly, as Facebook confirmed in a blog post.

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