Facebook’s never-ending stream of privacy scandals continues as a new report by The New York Times states that Facebook provided companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify unrestricted access to users’ data.
The publication says it interviewed over 60 people, including “former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates” and reviewed over 270 pages of internal Facebook documents.
The social network gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read users’ private messages, and allowed Amazon to access user names and contact information through their friends.
For their part, Netflix and Spotify have clarified that they were unaware of the special access.
Facebook also allowed Microsoft’s search engine Bing to see the names of “virtually all Facebook users’ friends” without their consent, and let Yahoo access “streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer.”
The investigation found that Facebook inked deals to share data with over 150 companies, including automakers, online retailers, media organisations, and entertainment sites. And while Facebook denied sharing data anymore, the publication found that some of these deals were still active.
A lot of the time, when people sign up to a platform using their Facebook account, there will have been an option in settings to accept or reject data access in this way. However, the issue the NYT investigation has shown is that many of the partners’ applications wouldn’t appear in a Facebook’s user settings, so if an individual had disabled all sharing in this manner, the companies still had access to their information.
The big issue appears to be with Facebook’s ‘People You May Know’ feature. The investigation says Facebook used data from Amazon, Yahoo and Huawei to improve its friends’ suggestions. Whilst Facebook wasn’t making any direct money from these partnerships, features such as this attracted new users to the social network, which drove up the platform’s advertising revenue.
Facebook even admitted that it “mismanaged” a few partnerships, stating it continued to offer companies access to user data even after they deprecated the features that needed the data.
In a blog post by Facebook, the company admits it gave large tech companies access to people’s information but says it was never done without people’s permission and that it wound down a lot of these partnerships earlier this year following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“Today, we’re facing questions about whether Facebook gave large tech companies access to people’s information and, if so, why we did this.”
The company also points out that there is no evidence to suggest that any of this data was misused.