Facebook stands accused of allowing about a dozen major companies access to the data of its 2.2 billion users — including private messages and contact info — without their consent.
Such companies allegedly allowed access to this information include Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft.
The accusation runs counter to Facebook’s previous claims that it does not allow third-party applications to view its users’ data.
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“Facebook 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 Facebook users’ private messages,” a report from The New York Times read.
“The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer,” it added.
“Facebook, in turn, used contact lists from the partners, including Amazon, Yahoo and the Chinese company Huawei — which has been flagged as a security threat by American intelligence officials — to gain deeper insight into people’s relationships and suggest more connections, the records show.”
Facebook put out a public statement on Wednesday in which it explained it’s committed to helping users regain trust in it — but the company also tried to refute some of the new claims.
“Facebook’s partners don’t get to ignore people’s privacy settings, and it’s wrong to suggest that they do,” Steve Satterfield, the company’s director of privacy and public policy, wrote.
“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 Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.”
In recent months, Facebook has had its share of personal data issues. In September, over 50 million users had their personal data breached from the site, so the company forcibly logged out more than 90 million accounts and had them log back in as they attempted to fix the breach.
The site also received sharp backlash in June when it was revealed it gave personal data access to at least four Chinese tech companies — including the smartphone maker Huawei and computer maker Lenovo, as well as smartphone manufacturers Oppo and TCL.
And most notably, Facebook exposed data from 87 million users to the Cambridge Analytica research firm during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
From a political perspective, Facebook has also lost the trust of many of its users in recent years after numerous allegations that the company suppresses conservative voices and elevates liberal ones.
For more on Facebook’s recent controversies, check out the video below:
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.