Media Moves

Coverage: Facebook discloses it has shared data with other companies

July 2, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

Facebook shared user information with dozens of hardware and software makers, as well as application developers, well after it said it cut off outside companies’ access to the data in 2015.

Paul Davidson of USA Today had the news:

The set-ups were described in 747 pages of documents submitted to the House Energy and Commerce Committee late Friday evening in response to hundreds of questions lawmakers had asked company executives.

The disclosures come amid widening scrutiny of how well Facebook protects the personal information of the network’s users and their friends.

The social networking giant said it made the special arrangements so hardware and software makers could ensure Facebook worked on their devices and operating systems, and application developers had time to comply with the company’s stricter access policies.

All told, 52 hardware and software makers — including Apple, Blackberry, Amazon and Microsoft – had access to the data. But the list also includes Chinese firms such as Huawei and Alibaba, some of which gave generated national security concerns.

John Fingas of Engadget reported Facebook shared data with 52 companies but has ended deals with most of them:

All told, Facebook has shared user info with 52 firms, including Chinese firms like Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo — some of these were already known. It has ended already partnerships with 38 of them (some due to companies ending relevant business, like HP/Palm and Inq), with seven more due to expire in July 2018 and one more in October.

Three partnerships are due to continue, Facebook said. Apple has an agreement that extends past October, Amazon also has a deal, while Tobiineeds its partnership for an eye-tracking app that makes Facebook accessible to ALS patients. There are also ongoing alliances with Alibaba, Mozilla and Opera to enable Facebook notifications in browsers, although those won’t include access to friends’ data.

Facebook also acknowledged that it gave 61 third-party app developers as much as six months of extra time to wind down their data collection practices after implementing tougher sharing controls in 2014, including Hinge and Spotify. Another five developers might have had access to “limited friends’ data” through a beta test, but it didn’t explain what that involved.

While these partnerships weren’t necessarily nefarious in intent, there are concerns Facebook has been using semantics to share data beyond an FTC consent decree requiring the site to obtain permission before collecting more data than a person’s privacy settings allow.

AJ Dellinger of Gizmodo reported that the Chinese companies are of interest to lawmakers:

Also on the list of 52, and of particular interest to lawmakers, was the inclusion of several Chinese firms: Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, and TCL. US intelligence agencies have raised suspicions about the firms and their ties to the Chinese government in the past, particularly Huawei. FBI Director Chris Wray testifiedpreviously that Huawei products provide “the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information.”

Not all of the revelations in the document were new. The New York Timespreviously reported that Facebook shared data with at least 60 device makers, primarily companies that produce smartphones. Huawei was included on that list, as well.

According to Facebook, the data shared with companies went on for several months after the social network cut off developer access to information belonging to a user’s friends. Facebook shared names, genders, dates of birth, current city, hometown, photos, and page likes with the developers who received the special deals.

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