Facebook Inc. has formed data-sharing partnerships with 60 device makers, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., giving them access to information of users and even their friends, a New York Times report has claimed.
But the new revelations could spell new trouble for Facebook, which is already facing an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission over potential violations of a consent decree the two organizations signed in 2011.
Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships, said in blog post that Facebook has maintained tight control over the technology, known as application programming interfaces, or APIs, and that it is not aware of any abuse by the companies that it teamed with.
In certain instances, manufacturers could retrieve personal information from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing. These partnerships were put in place starting in 2007, with the goal of giving device manufacturers access to Facebook features, while simultaneously spreading the use of Facebook into the mobile sphere.
"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences".
Even before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, Facebook had data-sharing partnerships with the device makers, the report said citing company officials, adding that most of the deals remain in effect. Microsoft (msft) said any data its software got from Facebook stayed on users' devices and was not uploaded to its own servers. A further 294,258 users had their unique identifier revealed through their connections with the original account.
The firestorm erupted in March when it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump's campaign, gained improper accessto tens of millions of Facebook users' data.
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This "breach of trust", as CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the unrestrained data snarfing, has kept Facebook's public relations group busy for the better part of this year, culminating with government hearings in the United States and the European Union in April.
Using legal agreements and Facebook-supplied code, these and other device makers could access information such as names, phone numbers and photos, all in a bid to make it easier for Facebook users to access its services - from friends' photos to their message histories - while using a smartphone.
Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go.
Parakilas told the Financial Times that while Facebook said it had blocked apps from acquiring the data held by app users' friends, "in the case of hardware manufacturers they didn't do that".
The Times reported some device makers had access to user data such as relationship status, religion, political leaning, and events.
Zuckerberg was adamant before Congress that Facebook is seriously committed to users' privacy.