Published: Thu, December 20, 2018
Money | By Arnold Ball

Facebook 'gave Netflix and Spotify access to private messages'

Facebook 'gave Netflix and Spotify access to private messages'

Numerous third-party data agreements described in the Times article appeared to have been relatively unused or dormant, and the news organization didn't identify examples of Facebook's partners siphoning mass amounts of information about Facebook users or otherwise abusing their access. The company insists that those partnerships are not barred by the FTC agreement, arguing that third party companies are service providers that use the data only "for and at the direction of" Facebook, functioning in a way as an extension of the social platform.

The Times interviewed over 60 people, including "former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates" to gather the information.

Microsoft received information about Facebook users' friends, the report said, and Amazon got contact info about people, also through access to their friends. Amazon, Microsoft's Bing search engine and Yahoo were also data partners.

Amazon's access allegedly lets the company access user's names and contact information via their friends on Facebook.

Whether aware or not, The Times reasons that the documents "raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission".

The whole debacle is comparable to the technical confusion that enabled Cambridge Analytica to collect data about Facebook user's friends without consent. "Our API provided partners with access to the person's messages in order to power this type of feature".

"Over the years, we've partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don't support ourselves", he said.

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Rising pressure: Another day, another Facebook scandal. Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's head of Developer Programs, said to a hypothetical anxious user: "Our integration partners had to get authorization from people". The downward trend for Facebook's stock price is not new, in the last six months the company's shares have fallen almost 5 percent.

"The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017", The Times reported. Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo representatives told the Times that they used the data appropriately, without further elaboration. But assuming there's even a grain of truth to them, it implies Facebook preemptively handed a metaphorical keyring to large partner companies without even being asked to do so, in the interests of expanding its own network of information. "Facebook rewards these firms with data privileges that other organisations do not enjoy".

More troubling to observers, however, was any sense that Facebook gave third parties deep access to user data without properly informing users and gaining permission.

'Protecting people's information requires stronger teams, better technology, and clearer policies, and that's where we've been focused for most of 2018.

He did, however, concede that partners shouldn't have had access to "instant personalisation" APIs after features were officially shut down.

Freedom From Facebook, a group which has previously called for the tech giant to be broken up, said the newest revelations should pressure the FTC to act, Fox News reports.

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