Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny about its data-sharing and privacy protections over the past few months, particularly in the wake of a scandal that emerged in March involving Cambridge Analytica’s access to and misuse of the data of millions of Facebook users in 2014. Now, according to a New York Times report published yesterday (June 3), Facebook is once again in the crosshairs for sharing user data with as many as 60 hardware manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung and Amazon.
According to the Times, the deals with the companies, which span the past decade, allowed device manufacturers to access user data without those users’ consent, and allowed them access to friend data even in cases when users had turned off data-sharing access on the platform. Those deals may run afoul of a 2011 consent decree issued by the Federal Trade Commission that said Facebook would not be allowed to circumvent users’ privacy settings without getting explicit approval, according to the report.
Facebook denied that the practice was inconsistent with the consent decree or with its own privacy policies. A spokesperson also told the Times the company was unaware of any misuse of data by those third-party hardware companies, which make phones and tablets that allow access to Facebook’s apps.
The report says that the agreements allowed some of those partners access to users’ “relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data,” and that because Facebook viewed those partners as extensions of Facebook, rather than third parties, they also could — and did — request friend data. Those partnerships were allowed to begin to sunset beginning in April, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, while a spokesperson for Apple, for one, said the company no longer had access to such data as of last September.
The Times also highlighted how the practice apparently flies in the face of testimony that founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave before Congress earlier this year, in which he insisted that users controlled all data they provided to the platform and how it was shared and used. Yet one person told the Times the issue had been flagged internally as far back as 2012, and was apparently left unaddressed.
Read the full report here.