Facebook gave user data to 60 companies including Apple, Amazon, and Samsung

Chip Somodevilla/GettyMark Zuckerberg testifying in Washington, DC, on April 10.
  • Facebook has had data-sharing agreements with at least 60 device makers, including Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft, many of which still exist.
  • The New York Times reports that device makers were able to access data of users’ friends, such as relationship status, religion, and political leaning.
  • Facebook confirmed the agreements but said they were used for creating “Facebook-like experiences” before app stores were the norm.
  • Facebook rejected claims that friends’ data was available to device makers without a user’s consent.

Facebook has had data-sharing agreements with at least 60 device markers, many of which are still in effect, according to a report in The New York Times.

Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft are among companies that have had a data-sharing partnership with Facebook over the past 10 years, according to The Times. Without explicit consent, device makers were allowed to access data of users’ friends, The Times said, even after Facebook said it would not share such information.

A Facebook statement in response to the report denies that information belonging to friends of users was shared without permission.

The data sharing was reportedly an issue as early as 2012.

“This was flagged internally as a privacy issue,” Sandy Parakilas, who then led Facebook’s privacy compliance, told The Times. “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.”

The Times reported some device makers had access to user data such as relationship status, religion, political leaning, and events. It also found the data of users’ friends could be accessed, despite data sharing being turned off.

According to The Times most of these partnerships are still in effect, though some began to be wound down in April.

On April 10, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a rare US Senate joint committee in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A week earlier it emerged that the data firm Cambridge Analytica may have gotten access to the data of up to 87 million users and that most of Facebook’s 2 billion users may have had their personal data skimmed by “malicious actors.”

Beginning in 2014, Facebook began ending the access app developers had to users’ friends data, which included names, birthdays, and even political or religious leanings. But the Times report suggests major device makers were not restricted by the same policy.

Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, responded to the Times article with a blog post titled “Why We Disagree with The New York Times.” He confirmed the use of the data-sharing agreements with about 60 companies – including Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, Microsoft, and Samsung – which were used to allow users to access Facebook before there were app stores and standard operating systems.

“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. “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. We are not aware of any abuse by these companies.”

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.

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