Published: Tue, June 05, 2018
Industry | By Terrell Bush

Facebook denies report it gave extensive user data to phone makers

Facebook denies report it gave extensive user data to phone makers

However, Facebook blasted back at the Times report, saying the newspaper has misinterpreted the objective and function of its so-called "device-integrated APIs" - the software that allows hardware companies to bridge into Facebook's database to offer versions of the app on their operating systems. The company apparently gave access to "vast amounts of its users' personal information" to device makers.

In addition, it said, its research showed that some device makers "could retrieve personal information even from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing".

She also told a hearing at the European parliament that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook would have to take greater responsibility for the material hosted on their sites in future.

But in a blog post published on Sunday, Facebook denied wrongdoing and said that all partners had a common interest for "people to be able to use Facebook whatever their device or operating system".

The executive wrote: "These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences".

Under the 2011 decree with the FTC, Facebook is required to obtain permission before sharing a user's private information with a third party in a way that exceeds that user's existing privacy settings. Facebook's rebuttal begins by saying it has mostly agreed with prior concerns the Times has raised "about the controls over Facebook information shared with" outside companies such as Cambridge Analytica.

In March, the FTC confirmed that it is investigating the Cambridge Analytica case, with Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau, citing substantial concerns about Facebook's privacy practices. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.

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The New York Times yesterday revealed the partnerships, shedding new light on the social media giant's behaviour related to customer data in the wake of a scandal involving the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. It's worth noting that a Blackberry representative told the New York Times that more recent Blackberry devices, running Android, do not use the same private channels.

But while Facebook focuses on the past, it doesn't explain why it didn't stop or significantly revise those data-sharing partnerships with hardware makers years ago.

Before now-ubiquitous apps standardised the social media experience on smartphones, some 60 device makers like Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung worked with Facebook to adapt interfaces for the Facebook website to their own phones, the company said. "It's why we announced in April that we're winding down access to them", the company wrote. The company says it has already ended 22 of the partnerships.

An older BlackBerry device, meanwhile, appeared to access many categories of data, including messages, while tapping data about friends and others one step removed on the network, the Times found.

Amazon and Samsung have yet to comment.

Elizabeth Denham, the head of the Information Commissioner's Office, said that her organisation's forthcoming report into the use of personal data for political purposes "will change the behaviour and compliance of all of the actors in the political campaigning space".

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