The Times report says Facebook allowed the companies access to the data of friends of the user without their explicit consent, a practice that landed the company in the crosshairs of Congress during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It shouldn't have taken so many years and so many Facebook crises over lax data-sharing for the company to end outside companies' access to certain information, including a feature that allowed third parties to see what private events people had indicated on Facebook that they planned to attend.
In interviews to NYT, Facebook defended its data-sharing agreement and asserted that these are consistent with its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users. 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.
The data-sharing arrangements date from as early as 2008; majority continue through to today, although Facebook began dismantling some of the deals in April - the same month its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about privacy protections and political propaganda in Congress. 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. It also said that the features couldn't be used with permission and that its engineering teams approved all of them.
It said Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon were among others to have struck data-sharing agreements. Facebook released the documents last month, but provided the lawmakers with the name of only one partner - BlackBerry - and little information about how its agreement with the device maker worked.
This is but another skeleton out of Facebook's closet, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that saw founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of the US Congress.
"Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go", it states.
But Facebook rejected claims that friends' data was available to device makers without a users' consent.
The social network added that it was not aware of there being any abuse of the shared data. We've already ended 22 of these partnerships.
"This was flagged internally as a privacy issue", Sandy Parakilas, who then led Facebook's privacy compliance, told The Times. And friends' information was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends, he said.
Apple said that it had previously used the software interfaces to allow iPhone users to do things like post photos to Facebook without opening the app, but that its device access was terminated in September.
That data from NPR is meant to be public - unlike the majority of Facebook users, who don't want their information broadly disseminated.