Facebook Defends Sharing User Data With Smartphone, Tablet Makers

Facebook Inc. has formed data-sharing partnerships with 60 device makers, including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., giving them access to information of users and even their friends, a New York Times report has claimed. The New York Times says the data shared included Facebook users' education history, relationship status, work, political leanings, religion, and upcoming events.

Facebook's reasoning for the situation is that it does not see these manufacturers as third parties.

Lawmakers forced Zuckerberg to testify on the matter in April and grilled him over how the British research firm was able to obtain data on as many as 87 million Facebook users. I thought it was fairly common knowledge that BlackBerry had some special access to the Facebook API, especially with the way BBOS devices handled Facebook and how Facebook for BlackBerry 10 integrated with contacts and such through the Hub. It's worth noting that a Blackberry representative told the New York Times that more recent Blackberry devices, running Android, do not use the same private channels.

If Facebook said that it removed open-access to your data, but access was still granted to 60 companies, how is that not lying?
"Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found".

"Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go", it states. The popular social media company told the Times that it views its device partners as extensions of Facebook itself, making the partnerships immune to some of the privacy limitations set on other third party apps and companies.

They said its partnerships were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners' servers, adding that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused. The deals were arranged before Facebook apps were as widely available as they are today, and most remain in effect, though the story quotes one former Facebook employee who says the issue "was flagged internally as a privacy issue" back in 2012.

According to the post, partners signed agreements preventing the data from being used for anything other than "Facebook-like experiences" on devices. These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other goal than to recreate Facebook-like experiences.

While the reporter appeared to have willingly given access to his Facebook data, the fact that the responses from his friends look to have been sucked up by BlackBerry's software is worrying, as the reporter's friends may not have agreed to such data syphoning by a non-Facebook service. Responding to the article, Vice President of Facebook's Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said that the partnerships were necessary due to high demand for Facebook apps across multiple platforms.

"We're not aware of any people's information being misused by these companies", Archibong said.