In a post-Cambridge Analytica world where tech giants have to be increasingly touchy when fingers are pointed at privacy issues, Facebook has issued a rebuttal to allegations that parts of its tech are still leaking data to third parties.
Over the last ten years, Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 mobile device manufacturers, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, BlackBerry and Samsung, in advance of Facebook apps taking off to enable developers to create features like address books and instant messaging. Most of these legacy partnerships remain in effect, although Facebook has ended 22 of them since it began winding down access in April this year.
According to a report from the New York Times, these partnerships are now raising concerns about another potential privacy scandal, as Facebook allegedly permitted device companies access to the data of users friends without explicit consent. This occurred even after the social network had declared it would no longer share such information, and in some cases, device makers could retrieve personal information from the friends of users who believed they had barred any data sharing.
The report further suggests that some device partners can retrieve user information such as religious belief, relationship status, political views and upcoming events.
Ime Archibong, Facebooks vice president of product partnerships, said that the company remains unaware of any misuse of data, as these device partners signed agreements which only allowed them to use this data to provide versions of “the Facebook experience”, in a time before App Stores existed.
“Partners could not integrate the users Facebook features with their devices without the users permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.
“This is very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers, like Aleksandr Kogan. These third-party developers were not allowed to offer versions of Facebook to people and, instead, used the Facebook information people shared with them to build completely new experiences.”
Sandy Parakilas, an ex-Facebook employee turned critic who formerly worked on its privacy compliance team, has said that the data sharing was previously flagged internally as an issue as early as 2012.
Facebook itself remains under world scrutiny in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when a massive data leak by Facebook revealed issues such as the electoral campaign of current US President Donald Trump bought access to data on up to 87m users of the network.
The tech giant is still under investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission, and continues to receive pressure from UK politicians to answer more questions on data protection.