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How Facebook Shared Data With Partners Without You Knowing

20 December, 2018, 09:26 | Author: Sara Gill
  • Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech at the Viva Tech show in Paris

A bombshell report from The New York Times revealed that Facebook shared user data with major companies including Spotify, Netflix, Microsoft, Yahoo, and more. Facebook did admit it had not been vigilant about managing the partnerships, and that some companies were able to continue accessing data despite the features that required it falling out of use.

Senator Brian Schatz said the latest revelations highlight a need for tougher controls on how tech companies handle user data. Microsoft had a similar deal for Bing, where it could "see the names of virtually all Facebook users' friends without consent". For instance, an integration with Apple allowed iPhone users to link their Facebook calendars with their phone calendars, even if they had changed settings to disable all sharing.

Moreover, it turns out that Facebook had developed a special tool that enabled turning access to private data on and off - even if the user had already disabled sharing.

The Times reviewed more than 200 pages of documents generated in 2017 by Facebook's automated partnership tracker.

Microsoft acknowledged the Facebook report Wednesday morning, but said it did not use data from Facebook to create profiles for advertising on its Bing search engine.

Overall, there were some 150 third party companies that reached deals with Facebook, including automakers, entertainment sites and media organizations.


Facebook says it has shut down most of the abovementioned partnerships in recent months, with the exception of those with Amazon and Apple.

That included Yahoo!, which reportedly still had the ability to view real-time feeds of friends' posts for a feature the company had ended in 2011.

The arrangements bypassed Facebook's typical privacy protections, making it harder for users to determine where and how their data was being shared by using the tools Facebook had made available for that objective. Second, people could have more social experiences - like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends - on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify.

"At no time did we access people's private messages on Facebook or ask for the ability to do so", Netflix said in an emailed statement. A spokeswoman for Yandex, which was accused a year ago by Ukraine's security service of funneling its user data to the Kremlin, said the company was unaware of the access and did not know why Facebook had allowed it to continue.

Facepalm: It seems the Cambridge Analytica incident isn't the only scandal Facebook will have to contend with. The partners were prohibited from using the personal information for other purposes, he said.

"This is just giving third parties permission to harvest data without you being informed of it or giving consent to it", said David Vladeck, who formerly ran the FTC's consumer protection bureau, adding that Facebook's interpretation was too broad. The agency said in March it was looking into whether Facebook engaged in unfair acts that might have violated the decree.

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