Facebook offered users privacy wall, then let tech giants around it

GettyFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg left and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings right

The Times report raises concern about Facebook's 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, which states the company can not share user data "without explicit permission".

Facebook Inc FB.O said it did not give companies access to personal data of users without their permission, after the New York Times reported on Tuesday that the social network allowed some tech giants far greater access to data than it had disclosed.

Some deals date to 2010 and all were active through 2017, with some still in effect this year.

The data-sharing deals are actually quite scary, though some of the companies involved were quick to claim that they were never aware of the excess power, or misused the data of Facebook users in any way.

Microsoft said in an emailed statement, "Throughout our engagement with Facebook, we respected all user preferences".

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However, he also criticised the Times' report for blurring the lines between access by third-party clients or OS integrations with what could be legitimate concerns about data being sent out to other companies.

The social network is said to have given Netflix and Spotify the ability to read your messages. Not only will the latest controversy affect user trust, which has already been going down rapidly, but it will also affect the company's relationship with companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. Netflix was quick to respond to the report, stating that the company did not access people's private messages on Facebook, or ever asked Facebook for the special access.

Data privacy experts disputed Facebook's assertion that most partnerships were exempted from the regulatory requirements, expressing skepticism that businesses as varied as device makers, retailers and search companies would be viewed alike by the agency. A new inquiry was opened earlier this year into Facebook's compliance with the FTC decree, and the company is also being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

Papamiltiadis said however that "we've been public about these features and partnerships over the years because we wanted people to actually use them". BlackBerry, Yahoo, and Russian internet company Yandex all were reportedly given some access as part of these partnerships; they certainly would not all be acting in the same interests as Facebook when given user data. "Protecting people's information requires stronger teams, better technology, and clearer policies, and that's where we've been focused for most of 2018".

Large firms, including Netflix and Spotify, were given free rein to suck up data of millions of users a month, according to the NYT which reviewed over 270 pages of internal Facebook documents. It was "never that popular, so we shut the feature down in 2015", the company said. Any shared data would remain on the devices and be available to anyone other than the users, according to Apple.

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