Facebook shared user data with Apple and Samsung

Facebook shared user data with Apple and Samsung

A Democratic congressman hammered Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, following a report that the company is sharing large amounts of its users' data with other companies.

The data-sharing partnerships, made a decade ago, were highlighted by The New York Times, which reports that in some cases, "device makers could retrieve personal information even from users' friends who believed they had barred any sharing".

However, Facebook blasted back at the Times report, saying the newspaper has misinterpreted the objective and function of its so-called "device-integrated APIs" - the software that allows hardware companies to bridge into Facebook's database to offer versions of the app on their operating systems. That's where a Trump-connected political consulting firm used data derived from as many as 87 million Facebook profiles in order to sway election results.

But the report taps into continuing anxiety about the information users give up - and to whom - when they use Facebook.

Apple told the Times that, as of last September, it no longer had access to Facebook data that enabled users to post photos to the social network without opening the Facebook app. BlackBerry said that it used Facebook data only to give its customers access to their Facebook network and messages and that it did not collect or mine Facebook data of its customers. And Facebook's stock has since recovered to trade close to its all-time high. So far there's no evidence that phone and tablet makers used Facebook data improperly, in sharp contrast to Cambridge Analytica consultants.

There's a lot of background on Facebook's handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and there are predictable comments from Facebook's most frequent critics.

"This is yet another concerning example of companies collecting, sharing, and exploiting users' data in completely unexpected ways", said the group's legal officer, Ailidh Callander.

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The senators also want Zuckerberg to answer how Facebook verifies that its data partners aren't abusing that information, as well as what other manufacturers the social network partnered with. The latest revelation is that Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Blackberry were just a handful of more than 60 device makers given "deep access" to user data ...

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 company claims that these private APIs were "tightly controlled" in a statement posted on the Facebook newsroom.

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.

Zuckerberg was adamant before Congress that Facebook is seriously committed to users' privacy.

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

Chinese telecommunications companies have come under scrutiny from US intelligence officials who argue they provide an opportunity for foreign espionage and threaten critical USA infrastructure, something the Chinese have consistently denied.

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