Facebook accused of letting phone firms spy on users

06 June, 2018, 00:50 | Author: Julian Harrison
  • A woman looks at the Facebook logo on an iPad in this

"Sure looks like [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have "complete control" over who sees our data on Facebook", Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law, tweeted on Sunday.

But the U.S. company contends those pacts were meant to help device makers create their own versions of Facebook apps, and the data mostly remained on phones that accessed it.

Without explicit consent, device makers were allowed to access data of users' friends, The Times said, even after Facebook said it would not share such information.

Hardware manufacturers used Facebook's software tools to allow their own users to access contacts or post photos to their profiles, among other things, the company said in a blog post."There were no app stores at the time and this was the only way to make our product work on their devices".

The Times said Facebook allowed companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders.

Zuckerberg appeared before congress in April following the revelation that Facebook had exposed data on up to 87 million users to Cambridge Analytica, a research firm that worked with the Trump campaign.

The latest claims may only add fuel to the fire of existing investigations into Facebook at the state and federal level, including a Federal Trade Commission probe into the company's data practices.

The APIs now in question, according to Archibong, are very different from those used by Cambridge Analytica.




At the centre of that consent decree is a requirement that Facebook be more transparent about the data it collects about its users. The problem lies in the level of access granted to these private APIs, which raises concerns over the amount of data shared with these third-parties. This included their relationship status, religious and political opinions, and upcoming events they had marked themselves as attending.

According to Facebook officials, over the past decade - before Facebook apps were widely available on mobile phones - the social network developed data-sharing partnerships with "at least" 60 device makers, including the big ones: Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung.

Adding to Facebook's defense, Archibong said that device-integrated APIs could not integrate users' Facebook features with their devices without their permission.

Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, one of the legislators who questioned Facebook Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan in April, said the data partnership violated the privacy of users.

The Times found that because of this loophole, a 2013 Blackberry device using a Facebook account with 556 friends could access the data of hundreds of thousands of people without their permission. They say that their biggest fear is giving a China a window into the USA government and military.

The first such data-sharing deal was struck more than 10 years ago, Facebook said in its statement, which describes the use of private APIs as part of its response to consumers' migration to mobile devices.

The opprobrium over Facebook's data privacy practices continues.

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