It’s a new week, which means it’s time for another new privacy controversy for Facebook. This time around, the company has gotten itself into a data-sharing controversy, revealed by The New York Times.
The publication claims Facebook made deals with some of the world’s biggest tech giants–including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, Yahoo, and Russian search engine Yandex–that gave these companies much more power than they needed. The deals were made over the years, dating back to as early as 2010. Facebook claims most of these deals have come to an end, though some — including the ones with Apple and Amazon — are still in action.
The data-sharing deals are actually quite scary, though some of the companies involved were quick to claim that they were never aware of the excess power, or misused the data of Facebook users in any way. Apple, for example, had access to Facebook users’ contacts and calendar entries even if the user didn’t agree to let Facebook share data with third-parties. Apple claimed the company wasn’t aware of the special access at all.
Microsoft, on the other hand, had access to see the names and profile data of a Facebook user’s friends for Bing. The software giant claimed that the company has already deleted the data accessed and never used the data for advertisement purposes, with Facebook claiming the search engine only had access to user data that was “public”. Apps that allowed users to access their Facebook account also had special access on Windows Phone devices, at least according to Facebook itself.
And then there’s Amazon, which had access to see the names and contact information of users, though that partnership is apparently in the process of shutting down.
But the scariest of them all is Facebook gave some of its partners — like Spotify, Netflix, and the Royal Bank of Canada — the access to users private messages on Facebook. The access would allow these services to read users’ private messages, write, and even delete them. Netflix was quick to respond to the report, stating that the company did not access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ever asked Facebook for the special access.
“Facebook’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do,” the company’s director of privacy told The New York Times. The company went on to emphasize the fact that it did not violate any of the users’ privacy settings, stating “none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.”
At this point in time, all of this is just one, big mess for Facebook. Not only will the latest controversy affect user trust, which has already been going down rapidly, but it will also affect the company’s relationship with companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon. This is not only about Facebook, but it’s also going to affect the reputation of all these companies involved, even though most have already declined to be aware of or abusing the special access given by Facebook.
It really makes you wonder if Facebook even values your personal data. If selling your personal data was bad, giving away the same data is embarrassingly disastrous.