Facebook answers report that says user data shared for years

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  June 4, 2018 at 7:54 AM
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June 4 (UPI) -- Facebook has defended itself after a New York Times article said the social media giant shared users' data with more than 60 companies over the last decade, including Amazon and Microsoft.

According to the Times report late Sunday, Facebook had agreed to give the companies -- including Apple, Samsung and Blackberry -- access to large amounts of personal data without users' consent.

The report said the information was given to the companies over a period of several years, and in some cases involved personal data from users' friends who'd believed they had prohibited data sharing in their personal settings.

Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to ratchet up privacy in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the British data firm accessed user data of up to 87 million people for political purposes.

Facebook said previously Cambridge Analytica's access to the information ended in 2014, but didn't disclose existing deals with the 60 companies exempted from the restrictions, the Times report said.

Facebook officials later said the data sharing agreements complied with a 2011 consent decree by the Federal Trade Commission and promises of privacy to users. In interviews, Facebook officials said they were unaware of any misuse of the information shared with the contracted companies, the article said.

The company said it offered data application programming interface, or API, access to software makers so partners could build versions of Facebook for different phones and operating systems.

In a blog post late Sunday titled Why We Disagree with The New York Times, Facebook said the agreements with companies like Apple and Microsoft came "when mobile phones were less powerful and app stores did not yet exist."

"Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go," Ime Archibong, Facebook vice president of Product Partnerships, said. "These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences.

"We are not aware of any abuse by these companies."

Twenty-two of the partnerships have since been ended by Facebook.

Zuckerberg testified before two congressional committees in April after the Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged and apologized for the political susceptibility of user information.

"Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have 'complete control' over who sees our data on Facebook," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., tweeted Sunday, referring to the new accusations. "This needs to be investigated and the people responsible need to be held accountable."

Cicilline is the sponsor of a bill that calls for curbs on Facebook's influence in the media industry.

Last month, a group of progressive groups launched a campaign to break up Facebook and last week a Pew Center Research survey showed the platform was declining in popularity among American teenagers.

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