Everything about Facebook's data sharing with its 'partners'

Science

20 Dec 2018

Facebook gave user data access to 150 companies: Details here

Facebook had a rough year in terms of privacy, but even now, the problems for the social network don't seem to end.

Just recently, the company suffered a security breach and photo leak, and now, the New York Times has highlighted its broad data sharing partnerships with over 150 companies, including the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Netflix.

Here's more on the matter.

NYT's

What the NYT expose revealed?

What the NYT expose revealed?

Citing internal documents and interviews with about 50 former Facebook employees, NYT reported that the social network gave access to data of millions to over 150 companies.

This included tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify, and Netflix as well as popular online retailers, entertainment sites, automakers and media organizations.

Notably, the type of information and the access timeline varied for each 'business partner'.

Agreement types

So, what kind of business agreements were these?

The information access given by Facebook can be broadly classified into two categories - 'integration' and 'instant personalization' deals.

As part of integration deals, it offered access to information via custom-built apps for phone-makers like Blackberry and Apple

Meanwhile, under instant personalization, it gave access to information that third-party platforms like Bing and Yelp could use to personalize their services for the users.

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Information shared

Here's what Facebook shared with Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft

Here's what Facebook shared with Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft

As part of the Apple deal, Facebook gave access to phone numbers and calendar entries, something that Apple claimed it wasn't aware of.

It gave Amazon access to usernames and contacts, which the e-commerce giant said was used 'appropriately'.

Meanwhile, Microsoft received access to names and other public information shared by users' friends for Bing personalization. However, it claims that data has been deleted.

Facebook's side

Facebook's stance on these partnerships

In a recent post, Facebook clarified that the information access under integration and instant personalization deals was not given without explicit permission of the users.

The company claimed it closed all integration deals, except those with Apple, Amazon, Tobii, Alibaba, Mozilla, and Opera.

It further added instant personalization, which started in 2010, was shut down in 2014 and its access has also been revoked.

Statement from Facebook's Director of Privacy and Public Policy

"Facebook's partners don't get to ignore people's privacy settings, and it's wrong to suggest that they do," Steve Satterfield, Facebook's Director of Privacy, said while adding that "these partners can only offer specific Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes."

Message access

Plus, Facebook also gave access to private messages

Plus, Facebook also gave access to private messages

Facebook also had certain deals under which it provided Netflix, Spotify, Dropbox and the Royal Bank of Canada access to private messages.

They were given read, write access, which Facebook has accepted on its part.

However, it has said the move was made (with specific data-use guidelines) to enable certain messaging features in the partners' apps - only with users' authorization via Facebook Login.

Facebook's explanation for the message access

"People could message their friends about what they were listening to on Spotify or watching on Netflix, share folders on Dropbox, or get receipts from money transfers through the Royal Bank of Canada app," Facebook stated, noting the partnerships were experimental and have been shuttered.

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