Facebook opens up about its extensive data sharing habits

July 3, 2018

Facebook opens up about its extensive data sharing habits

In a 747-page report delivered to Congress, Facebook has opened up about how it manages its Users’ data and has admitted to allowing technology companies and application developers special access to its users’ data despite publicly stating it had restricted external companies access to its data in 2015.

Facebook openly admits to sharing its users’ data with 61 hardware and software makers as well as app developers.

The extensive report gives a sweeping view on how Facebook handles users’ personal information and is a response to the hundreds of questions the members of the Congress asked Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook’s data handling in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Although Facebook says it has discontinued many data-sharing partnerships and blocked third parties access to users’ data, it seems other preferred relationships are still going strong. The report details this.

Special privileges for some companies

After Facebook’s privacy policy overhaul in April 2015, banning third-party companies from accessing the data about the friends of users, Facebook continued to allow 61 companies a temporary exemption from the ban. It offered those companies extensions instead, some extra time (most companies got 6months) to comply with its new data privacy rules. In the meantime, those companies were allowed continuous access to information about users’ friends.

One company that benefited from this privilege was Serotek. Serotek (according to its website creates accessibility products for the blind or visually impaired) was exempt from the ban for 8 months. Other companies: Hinge (a dating service), Mail.ru, Nike, Nissan, Playtika (a game developer), Spotify and UPS were allowed extensions of 6 months.

Extensive data-sharing partnerships

The document sheds light on the partnerships that Facebook had and still has with domestic and international companies. Companies not previously mentioned include Dell, Huawei, Kodak, LG, O2, Orange, Virgin Mobile, Warner Bros (these companies have since been removed from the list of partners) but were given extensive access rights to users’ data to build their own “versions of Facebook or Facebook features”. Other Facebook partners include Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Sony, Acer, Alibaba, Samsung and Blackberry.

Some of these partnerships are still ongoing even though they’re believed to breach privacy pledges made by Facebook. Facebook said that it has discontinued 38 of the 52 Partnerships and plans to end a further 7 by the end of July and another one by the end of October.  Some partnerships will continue as Facebook has explained that the agreements with some companies extend beyond October. Companies include Apple, Amazon and Tobii (eye tracking technologies and technologies for people with disabilities).

In the report, Facebook acknowledges that it continues to provide data access to 14 companies that it’s approved for data-sharing. Some companies that haven’t been previously identified are Alibaba, Nokia, Vodafone, Yahoo and Zing Mobile.

So far, Facebook says that it has suspended around 200 apps, relating to five developers.

Maybe an eye-opener for some…It seems Facebook is up to no good 

Facebook users, who assumed that they were sharing their data with family and friends have actually been sharing data (mostly unknowingly) with many more. Although this lengthy report aims to answer the hundreds of questions posed to Mark Zuckerberg, these answers may provoke a whole new set of questions for Facebook to answer. Especially since data breaches, like the recent quiz app breach, relating to Facebook’s data handling continue to be uncovered.

The Hacker News:

https://thehackernews.com/2018/07/facebook-data-privacy.html

BBC News:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-44682364