In a recent news published by The New York Times revealed that Facebook has been sharing private messages and personal information about its users with so-called “partners” (companies that had come into business agreements with Facebook). Because of these partnership agreements, it felt it didn’t need to notify either its users or government regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (F.T.C.). It gave technology companies more access to personal user data than was previously made public, according to “hundreds of pages of Facebook documents” obtained by the New York Times.
The paper said the partners, among them Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and Microsoft, were effectively exempted from it’s privacy rules and received more access to user data than did Cambridge Analytica. It has been under intense scrutiny in recent months after it disclosed a major security breach that could have left as many as 50 million users’ accounts vulnerable.
“The social network allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read its users’ private messages. It also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show”
_the Times notes.
Apart from Spotify, Bing, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada, other “partners” that Facebook shared information with include Yahoo, Amazon, the Russian search engine Yandex, and the Chinese firm Huawei. Both Yandex and Huawei are known to work with the security services of their home countries. Huawei has been further named as a security threat by the American government.
“It’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do. Over the years, we’ve partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don’t support ourselves. Unlike a game, streaming music service, or other third-party app, which offer experiences that are independent of Facebook, these partners can only offer specific features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.
We know we’ve got work to do to regain people’s trust. Protecting people’s information requires stronger teams, better technology, and clearer policies, and that’s where we’ve been focused for most of 2018. Partnerships are one area of focus and, as we’ve said, we’re winding down the integration partnerships that were built to help people access Facebook.”
— Steve Satterfield, Director of Privacy and Public Policy at Facebook
These news of data-breaches through Facebook can create reputational risks for the companies making the deals. Every company named in the report will be held account for the Times’ findings, and they better have good and thorough answers when shareholders, lawmakers, and reporters start asking.