According to a New York Times report last Wednesday, Facebook provided extensive access to their users’ personal data than they previously revealed. The report indicates that these companies can read private messages and access the names of friends and family without consent. Allegedly, some of these companies include Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, and various banks.
Facebook has shared this data with over 150 companies through apps on its sophisticated platform—even if the users disabled. Apps owned by the “integration partners” never appeared in user application settings, as Facebook considered them an extension of its network.
These Facebook deals dated as far back as 2010 and remained active in 2017, and some are still in effect this year. Here is a breakdown of the deals.
- Private Messages: Spotify, Netflix, and other companies were able to access, compose, and delete the user’s private messages. Spotify was able to access over 70 million users a month while Netflix and other companies turned off messaging access features.
- Friends Lists: Facebook granted access to Microsoft’s Bing search engine to view the names of “virtually all Facebook users’ friends without permission,” the reported stated. Microsoft claimed the data was used to create user profiles on their servers, but the data has been deleted. Yahoo was also able to access users’ news feeds. However, Yahoo eliminated the feature in 2012.
- Russia: Russian search site, Yandex, has been designated a Facebook partner since 2017. It provides access to unique user IDs as current as 2017. This occurred after Facebook stopped sharing other applications due to privacy risks.
The New York Times states they obtained over 270 pages of Facebook documents and interviewed over 50 people, including former Facebook staff.
Facebook commented on the report, saying that partnerships allowed features such as “messaging integrations,” but almost all have been closed down over the last few months except for Apple and Amazon. Facebook also clarified that the deals never provided outside companies access to data without user permission. Facebook made an additional statement saying “instant personalization,” a secondary product that powered Bing’s features, was shut down in 2014. They acknowledged they shouldn’t have left the data exchange interface running.