Facebook offered users privacy wall, then let tech giants around it

Facebook reportedly gave tech giants access to users' private messages

Facebook reportedly gave tech giants access to users' private messages

First, people could access their Facebook accounts or specific Facebook features on devices and platforms built by other companies like Apple, Amazon, Blackberry and Yahoo. The messages disclosed some partnerships and depicted a company preoccupied with growth, whose leaders sought to undermine competitors and briefly considered selling access to user data.

But Facebook has, unsurprisingly, jumped on the defensive, insisting that everything is above board and that users had in fact given consent to data sharing.

When contacted for a comment by the Times, spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them.

The report specifically alleges that multiple businesses were allowed to access the private Facebook messages of Canadian users. That was despite statement the company made publicly saying it stopped that kind of behaviour years earlier.

The partnerships allowed Facebook to grow, and other companies - from tech, to retail, to entertainment - could access certain data.

Amazon said its partnership with Facebook didn't violate its own privacy policy.

That included Yahoo!, which reportedly still had the ability to view real-time feeds of friends' posts for a feature the company had ended in 2011.

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

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"The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017", The Times reported.

Mr Collins, who led Parliament's fake news inquiry, recently published internal Facebook documents that revealed it had cut off data access to rival companies that were threatening its business model. But the Times report raises questions about how well Facebook managed those partners' access. Netflix tweeted Wednesday that it "never asked for, or accessed, anyone's private messages".

"We recognize that we've needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information using our APIs".

The Canadian bank RBC, also cited in the New York Times, said the deal with Facebook "was limited to the development of a service that enabled clients to facilitate payment transactions to their Facebook friends", and that it was discontinued in 2015. Facebook admitted that it should not have left the systems in place after it had shut down the feature, but said it had no evidence that the public information obtainable was used or misused.

THE FACTS: As part of the settlement, Facebook is required to obtain people's "affirmative express consent" before making changes that override their privacy preferences.

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.

"The flagrancy with which Facebook has flouted its consent decree shows it doesn't take the agency seriously", the group said in a statement.

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