Facebook Shared User Data with 60+ Companies

While Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc.'s (FBCEO and founder, is having a tough time answering questions from legislators and other authorities across the globe on the issue of data breaches, more and more skeletons continue to tumble from Facebook’s cupboard.

Facebook Shared Data With More than 60 Companies

The New York Times reported that over the last decade, the social media giant struck partnerships to share user data with more than five dozen companies including technology giants like Apple Inc. (AAPL), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), BlackBerry Ltd. (BB), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) and Samsung.

Such data sharing agreements were put in place before Facebook apps were made available on the various smartphones. These deals allowed “device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, ‘like’ buttons and address books,” and were apparently chalked out as Facebook attempted to widen its reach to attract more and more global users to its platform.

However, in the process, the company ended up allowing device manufacturers to gain vital access to the data of the users’ networks without explicitly seeking their consent, despite the company's statement that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. New York Times investigations further revealed that a few device manufacturers were able to access personal details even from users’ friends who believed they had blocked sharing of any of their own data. Details that were available to partners included “relationship status, political leaning, education history, religion and upcoming events.” (See also, Facebook Now Says More Users Hit By Data Scandal.)

While most of the data sharing deals continue to remain in effect, Facebook started pulling the plug in April after the Cambridge Analytica saga came to the fore that revealed compromises on millions of users’ data from the social media platform. Though Facebook had blocked this type of access earlier, the company failed to disclose that other device makers were allowed to retain access.

Facebook, Partners Justify the Data Sharing Model

To defend its operating model including data sharing with device makers, Facebook published a blogpost Sunday evening. While Facebook views the device partners as an extension of its social media network, security experts have other concerns. The major point of contention is that as the users’ data is accessed and quite often collected and stored on the device, meaning it could be potentially be accessed by other apps installed on that particular device. This may happen with or without user's consent. Facebook may not necessarily have any control over the handling of this stored data by such third-party apps, a few of which may be of malicious nature. (See also, How Much Can Facebook Potentially Make from Selling Your Data.)

Many experts opine that such practices are a violation of user’s privacy rights. While the detailed impact of such data sharing deals is still not known, many of the device manufacturers like Apple and Blackberry have mentioned that they used Facebook data only to give their users the necessary access to the Facebook platform and its functionality. (See also, Employee's Facebook Stalking Raises Questions.)

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