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Facebook gave companies special access to data on users’ friends – ANITH
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Facebook gave companies special access to data on users’ friends

Facebook gave companies special access to data on users’ friends

SMH.

Image: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty

This is just getting ridiculous. 

A day after Facebook admitted to changing 14 million users’ post settings to “public,” three days after it was revealed that the company had given an accused national security threat access to data on some users’ friends, and less than a week after the news dropped that the social media giant had special data sharing deals with 60 device manufacturers, we’re hit with yet another scandal from the bottomless pit of shamelessness. 

And — you’ll be forgiven for experiencing a bit of deja vu here — the privacy violation du jour involves Facebook providing certain companies access to data on users’ friends. 

So reports the Wall Street Journal, which notes that the company Mark Zuckerberg started in his dorm room made special deals with a host of companies, including RBC Capital Markets and Nissan Motor Co. Per the Journal:

The unreported agreements, known internally as “whitelists,” also allowed certain companies to access additional information about a user’s Facebook friends, the people familiar with the matter said. That included information like phone numbers and a metric called “friend link” that measured the degree of closeness between users and others in their network, the people said.

Notably, this reportedly went on after Facebook insisted it ended the ability of third-party developers to gather data on users’ friends in 2015. 

The Journal notes that it’s not exactly clear when these deal ended. Did they even end? It’s also unknown just how many companies were given this special access.

We reached out to Facebook in an effort to determine how many companies were granted this special access, what those companies are, when and if this special access ended, and if Facebook users were notified of this in any way. We have received no response as of press time. 

So, yeah, another big helping of unaccountability from our friends in Menlo Park. 

UPDATE: June 8, 2018, 4:28 p.m. PDT: A Facebook spokesperson provided the following statement, attributable to the company’s VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong:

For the most part this is a rehash of last week-end’s New York Times story — namely that we built a set of device integrated APIs used by around 60 companies to create Facebook-like experiences. In April 2018, we announced that we were winding these down. In terms of our Platform APIs, the Journal has confused two points. In 2014, all developers were given a year to switch to the new, more restricted version of the API. A few developers including Nissan and RBC asked for a short extension — and those extensions ended several years ago. Any new ‘deals’, as the Journal describes them, involved people’s ability to share their broader friends’ lists — not their friends’ private information like photos or interests — with apps under the more restricted version of the API. Per our testimony to Congress ‘We required developers to get approval from Facebook before they could request any data beyond a user’s public profile, friend list, and email address.’

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Anith Gopal
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