Facebook disagrees with allegations it gave device manufacturers ‘deep access’ to user data

Facebook said it disagreed with the New York Times’ take on the social network’s device-integrated APIs

Menlo Park social networking giant Facebook has issued a formal response to a New York Times report alleging that the company gave “device makers deep access to data on users and friends.”

In a June 3rd, 2018 media release, Facebook’s vice president of product partnership Ime Archibong said that the company disagrees with a June 3rd, 2018 New York Times report alleging that Facebook’s partnership with approximately 60 device manufacturers “allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent.”

The New York Times report specifically addressed the fact that Facebook allowed companies like Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung to access user and friend data as part of Facebook’s device-integrated API platform.

The Times found that device manufacturers were even able to access user’s friends data, “even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.”

For instance, the BlackBerry Hub app on a BlackBerry Z10 was able to access the data of 556 friends belonging to a New York Times reporter, including “relationship status, religious and political leanings and events they planned to attend.”

According to the Times, the Hub was “also able to access information — including unique identifiers — on 294,258 friends.”

Facebook issues formal response

In response to the Times investigation, Archibong explained that Facebook’s device-integrated API partnerships that “allowed companies to recreate Facebook-like experiences for their individual devices or operating systems.”

“This is very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers, like Aleksandr Kogan,” said Archibong, in the June 3rd media release.

“These third-party developers were not allowed to offer versions of Facebook to people and, instead, used the Facebook information people shared with them to build completely new experiences.”

Archibong also confirmed that approximately 60 device manufacturers have utilizes these APIs, but also stated that Facebook has terminated 22 of these partnerships.

“These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences,” wrote Archibong.

“Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission.”

Still, the Times report raises a number of concerns surrounding the partnerships that currently exist between software companies and the hardware giants that rely on third-party software.

The Times report also addresses the fact that terms of service agreements aren’t all encompassing documents. Just because a user agrees to a single company’s terms of service, that doesn’t mean that a different company can’t still access the user’s data.

Source: New York Times, Facebook