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Facebook reportedly gave tech giants access to users' private messages

20 December, 2018, 02:59 | Author: Melinda Barton
  • GettyFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg left and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings right

As traditional news outlets like The Times continue transitioning into digital media companies, this report raises alarming questions about their future relationship with tech giants like Facebook.

Facebook gave its corporate partners access to users' personal data for years as special arrangements, The New York Times reported late Tuesday night.

Facebook has already been called before lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere to defend its data policies since news broke this year on the misuse of personal data in 2016 by Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy working on Donald Trump's campaign.

Facebook has also responded to the claims stating that companies were never given access to people's private data without their consent.

Some of the reported loopholes were more or less transparent to the end user, and may even have enabled fairer competition. One example of the access granted, per the Times: Facebook allowed companies like Amazon and Microsoft to access a user's email address via that user's friends. "They are never going to volunteer to do the right thing".

All in all, the deals ultimately benefited more than 150 companies, including tech businesses, online retailers, entertainment sites, automakers and media organizations.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Times it had not found any evidence the companies who had access to user data abused it in any way.

Other companies were quick to deny they were aware of, or used the special access.


According to the NYT, Bank of Canada brushed off the allegations, while Spotify and Netflix claimed they did not know of such broad powers in their hands. On their official Twitter account, Netflix US shared that they're not the type to slide into DMs. Amazon told CNN that its partnership is purely to ensure a smooth Facebook experience on its products, such as the Fire Tablet, and it "uses the information in accordance with its own privacy policy". The scale of the business these companies do with Facebook underpins the value of their relationship.

Facebook has encountered one scandal after another. "But people had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first to use a partner's messaging feature".

Some have speculated Facebook may opt to roll out a paid tier of service exempting users from data sharing. "This is just another form of selling".

Facebook is up to its neck in scandals around the world as regulators wake up to the danger posed by a social networking monopoly acting unilaterally to enrich itself at the expense of users' privacy.

But given how many people can not afford to delete their Facebook, we must stand up and collectively push back against this monopoly that deploys NSA-like spying powers in the name of crony capitalism.

'We shut down instant personalisation, which powered Bing's features, in 2014 and we wound down our partnerships with device and platform companies months ago, following an announcement in April, ' the company said. "Still, we recognise that we've needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information using our APIs".

As noted by Alex Stamos, Facebook's former Chief Security Officer (CSO), Facebook's response "blends all kinds of different integrations and models into a bunch of prose".

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