NYT Report: Facebook Allowed Tech Giants Access to Personal Data

Facebook routinely allowed favored tech companies–including Amazon, Netflix and Spotify–unencumbered access to users’ personal data, “effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules,” according to the New York Times.

One of the ways Facebook facilitated the favored status of tech giants was through Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which gave access to “virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent,” the Times reported in its investigation.

For insight into the scope of the Facebook practices, consider this excerpt from the Times’ article:

Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. … Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them.  

Here are other disclosures from the Times’ report:

  • Yahoo could view real-time feeds of friends’ posts. “A Yahoo spokesman declined to discuss the partnership in detail but said the company did not use the information for advertising.
  • Facebook’s internal records show deals with more than 60 makers of smartphones, tablets and other devices.
  • Facebook allowed Apple to hide from Facebook users “all indicators that its devices were asking for data. Apple devices also had access to the contact numbers and calendar entries of people who had changed their account settings to disable all sharing. …”

Interpersonal Divide’s author Michael Bugeja was one of the first in the nation to criticize Facebook practices, as detailed in this January 2006 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Facing the Facebook.”

Here are other Facebook-related posts from the latest edition of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine:

This latest disclosure continues to show Facebook’s questionable business practices in yet another attempt to profit from users’ personal data.

The Times’ believes personal data “is the oil of the 21st century, a resource worth billions to those who can most effectively extract and refine it.” The newspaper notes that Facebook has never sold its user data. “Instead, internal documents show, it did the next best thing: granting other companies access to parts of the social network in ways that advanced its own interests.”

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