Facebook Allows Manufacturers Like Samsung, BlackBerry, And Apple Access To User Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in early April.                  Xinhua News Agency  Getty

The report claims that Facebook allowed its partners to access the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outside firms - a possible violation of the 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.

Some device makers, according to the Times, could get personal information from those friends even though they were under the impression that they had barred any sharing if their data. Under the FTC agreement, Facebook is required to obtain explicit user consent to share data externally. One New York Times reporter who used a Blackberry-supported app to log into Facebook found it could get unique personal information on 556 of his friends and on almost 295,000 of his friend's friends.

"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other objective than to recreate Facebook-like experiences", Archibong said.

Facebook said on Monday that it does not know of any privacy abuse by cellphone makers who years ago were able to gain access to personal data on users and their friends. They continued to share data with device OEMs even when third-party data sharing was disabled, though still has noted that users could consent (or not) to share their data. Furthermore, it claims that these relationships are somehow different from those it has with app manufacturers as the companies in question, whose platforms allow for Facebook access, are effectively extensions of the social network.

Adding to Facebook's defense, Archibong said that device-integrated APIs could not integrate users' Facebook features with their devices without their permission.

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The New York Times reported the social media giant had data sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers, including Apple, Amazon, Blackberry and Samsung, with many of these agreements still continuing. The reporters found that the app not only accessed extensive information about the reporter's profile, it got ahold of similar data from his friends, and from friends of friends, too.

Facebook has responded to a New York Times story that raises privacy concerns about the company's device-integrated APIs, saying that it "disagree [s] with the issues they've raised about these APIs". So far there's no evidence that phone and tablet makers used Facebook data improperly, in sharp contrast to Cambridge Analytica consultants.

The company says that with iOS and Android now so dominant, it has now ended access by 22 device makers, and started limiting the power of them in April.

Companies who have settled previous FTC actions must also comply with FTC order provisions imposing privacy and data security requirements.

A Facebook statement in response to the report denies that information belonging to friends of users was shared without permission.

Amazon and Samsung have yet to comment.

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