Facebook accused of sharing data with Apple, Samsung, and Amazon

06 June, 2018, 00:49 | Author: Darren Santiago
  • Facebook says it “disagrees” with the New York Times’ criticisms of its device-integrated APIs		
		
	Catherine Shu

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   	8 hours

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said in a statement that The Times's reporting "raises important questions about transparency and potential privacy risks for Facebook users".

The NYT carried out its own test with an old Blackberry phone to illustrate the issue. The reporters found that the app not only accessed extensive information about the reporter's profile, it got ahold of similar data from his friends, and from friends of friends, too. This includes address book integration, photo sharing, and more.

It's Facebook that you should be anxious about abusing your personal data - not Amazon, Apple, Microsoft or Samsung.

"It is shocking that this practice may still continue six years later, and it appears to contradict Facebook's testimony to Congress that all friend permissions were disabled", says Parakilas in the Times story.

The Times did manage to demonstrate how a private API could grant a phone maker access to Facebook users, showing that a custom smartphone app could get the "relationship status, religious and political leanings" of more than 500 of a user's Facebook friends, and get "unique identifiers" on almost 300,000 friends of those friends.

"Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go", it states.

"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other objective than to recreate Facebook-like experiences", Facebook wrote. 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.

Archibong said Facebook approved each of the experiences that were built, and that they worked differently to its public, platform APIs.

The social network added that it was not aware of there being any abuse of the shared data.

Next, it was déjà data-analytics vu in April, when Facebook suspended a second firm, Cubeyou, for dressing up its personal-data snarfing as "nonprofit academic research", in the form of personality quizzes, and handing over the data to marketers.

Facebook has faced intense scrutiny in recent months over the Trump-linked firm's profiling of USA voters in order to target them with personalized political ads, using personal information it obtained from Facebook. A Microsoft representative said the company started working with Facebook in 2008 but said no data was synced with Microsoft servers as it was stored locally on the phones powered by Microsoft.

Apple (aapl) said it stopped giving iPhones this sort of access to Facebook last September. It added that newer Blackberry-branded Android handsets do not use the APIs. Amazon and Samsung refused to comment.

Despite Facebook's defence of its behaviour, one British digital rights campaign group has expressed concern.

This practice of sharing data with device makers, sans explicit permission, didn't come to a screeching halt because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that erupted in March. In other words, they don't need to ask for additional consent from users just as Facebook doesn't need to.

The EU's new privacy law known as the General Data Protection Rules, or GDPR, which took effect on May 25, will be a first step toward safeguarding people, said Denham.

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