In Depth

Why Facebook handed 60 tech companies ‘deep access’ to user data

Reports that social media site had deals with firms including Apple and Amazon raises fresh privacy concerns

Facebook gave at least 60 leading device manufacturers “deep access” to the personal data of its users, according to a new report. 

The New York Times claims that the social media site has had data-sharing deals dating back up to ten years with companies including Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. These agreements reportedly allow the firms access to the personal data of Facebook users and their friends “without their explicit consent”.

The report raises fresh concerns about Facebook’s privacy protection protocol and its compliance with a “consent decree” that it made with the US-based Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2011, under which the firm is meant to give its users notice if their personal data is to be used. 

Information made available to the device makers reportedly includes the relationship status of the user, their religion and political views, and events they plan to attend, Business Insider reports. 

Some of the tech manufacturers have ended this particular deal with Facebook, the news site says, but “most of these partnerships are still in effect”.

Why did Facebook share data with tech firms? 

Facebook says the data-sharing deals were vital during the company’s formative years and has denied claims that the partnerships violate its agreement with the FTC. 

The company’s vice president of product partnerships, Ime Archibong, said in a blogpost: “These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences.

“Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission, and our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.”

Despite Facebook’s denials, the claims will do little to ease concerns about the firm’s handling of its user data. 

In March, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “came under heavy fire” following reports that the social media site had sold user information to the now-defunct consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which “misused user data in the lead-up to the US presidential election”, says CNet.

Last month, Zuckerberg apologised to the European Parliament for Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, saying he was sorry that the social media site had been used as a tool “for harm”, the BBC reports.

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