Facebook offered Netflix, Spotify ability to read users’ private messages

Anna Jefferson
December 20, 2018

A bombshell report from The New York Times revealed that Facebook shared user data with major companies including Spotify, Netflix, Microsoft, Yahoo, and more.

These companies are not the only ones with broad access to user data.

But Facebook has, unsurprisingly, jumped on the defensive, insisting that everything is above board and that users had in fact given consent to data sharing.

Despite this, user numbers don't appear to have suffered as a result; although public trust in the company has been negatively affected.

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"Delete access" meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook.

Another spokeswoman told the Times that Facebook did not find evidence of abuse by the companies. In the NYT report, Facebook's Director of Privacy and Public Policy Steve Satterfield said this access didn't violate the FTC's ruling because the ruling "did not require the social network to secure users' consent before sharing data because Facebook considered the partners extensions of itself".

The investigation found that Facebook made deals with over 150 companies including online retailers, media organizations, automakers, and entertainment sites.

'Over the years, we've partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don't support ourselves.

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However, a Royal Bank of Canada spokesman denied having any such access which allowed it to read or delete users' private messages.

The deals were all active in 2017, and some were still in effect this year, the Times reported. Second, people could have more social experiences - like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends - on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify. Maybe those special deals were fine to make, met the smell test of consent from Facebook users, and complied with Facebook's 2011 agreement with the USA government to never again share user information without people's explicit permission. But assuming there's even a grain of truth to them, it implies Facebook preemptively handed a metaphorical keyring to large partner companies without even being asked to do so, in the interests of expanding its own network of information.

A new report says Facebook provided third parties with an obscene amount of access to users' personal data.

As Facebook has battled one crisis after another, the company's critics, including some former advisers and employees, have singled out the data-sharing as cause for concern. A product manager, Michael LeBeau, wrote in a February 2015 email that the permissions feature - which prompted users to grant access to call logs and text-message history - is "a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective".

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The social network has been under intense pressure over its practices over the a year ago, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a series data breaches and concerns over fake news and other content on the site. The agency said in March it was looking into whether Facebook engaged in unfair acts that might have violated the decree.

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