Facebook Defends Against Device-Integrated APIs Policy, But Concerns Remain

Facebook Defends Against Device-Integrated APIs Policy, But Concerns Remain

The report reveals that Facebook has been sharing the data of users, their friends, and the friends of their friends, with at least 60 device makers.

"Sure looks like Zuckerberg lied to Congress about whether users have "complete control" over who sees our data on Facebook", Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) tweeted on Sunday.

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said in a statement that The Times's reporting "raises important questions about transparency and potential privacy risks for Facebook users".

"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other objective than to recreate Facebook-like experiences", Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, said in a statement.

The report says that the company hasn't only been sharing user data with their device makers but also their friends', as well. "All these partnerships were built on a common interest - the desire for people to be able to use Facebook whatever their device or operating system".

The partnerships between Facebook and device-maker companies like Apple, Samsung and others were allegedly formed in order to expand Facebook's reach and custom software during a time period when social media apps were not widely available on smartphone and tablets.

In this case, however, it's not clear how the device makers could have abused Facebook even if they wanted to.

Facebook denies it shared user data without consent. It also gathered "identifying information for almost 295,000 Facebook users" by retrieving data on second-degree contacts, the newspaper said. But by then, Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan had already created a quiz app that allowed him to download an estimated 87 million Facebook profiles and then share the data with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

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The practice - which may have occurred without users' full knowledge - drew sharp rebukes from lawmakers on Monday, who said Facebook has misled them about the way it collects and swaps consumers' data.

Archibong said Facebook approved each of the experiences that were built, and that they worked differently to its public, platform APIs.

Archibong also said the data agreements allowed phone makers to offer Facebook features on their phones before app stores were popular.

Archibong said the rise of iOS and Android meant few people now rely on the bespoke Facebook experiences these companies used to provide, which is why the company began "winding down" the partnerships in April, having ended 22 so far.

Facebook had responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by stating that it ceased allowing such third-party access in 2015, but the NYT reports that this doesn't appear to include device makers.

The Times story promises a lot, but upon closer examination, it doesn't amount to much.

Zuckerberg was adamant before Congress that Facebook is seriously committed to users' privacy. Those same data protection principles were applied to the BlackBerry Facebook app which was developed using a Facebook device-integrated API for BlackBerry which enabled our handset customers to access Facebook functionality on their BlackBerry devices. A Microsoft spokesperson told the Times that Facebook data was stored locally on Microsoft phones, but not synced to Microsoft's servers.

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