Facebook offered Netflix, Spotify ability to read users’ private messages

Facebook offered Netflix, Spotify ability to read users’ private messages

In this case, a report from The New York Times revealed the social media company gave an extreme amount of access to certain partner companies, over and above what users might have expected. Companies are reported to have been able to read and delete messages, and it isn't clear if users were explicitly told what access and permissions they had.

Facebook also emphasised that the partnerships all required consent from users, generally through signing in to Facebook in the target app. The report says that Spotify could view messages of more than 70 million users a month, although it did not state whether the company had full access to that entire number of users.

The report specifically alleges that multiple businesses were allowed to access the private Facebook messages of Canadian users. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers.

The personal information of Facebook's 2.2 billion users was unknowingly put to work for Microsoft's Bing search engine, for example, which could see the names of almost all Facebook user's friends without consent. While most were technology companies, there were also automakers and media organizations.

"Amazon uses APIs (application program interfaces) provided by Facebook in order to enable Facebook experiences for our products", he said.

It is unclear what these companies would need such invasive data for, and they still have it and what their plans are to do with it.

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After the March revelations about how Cambridge Analytica appeared to take advantage of loose Facebook rules to gather information on people's Facebook friends without their overt approval, we were somewhat comforted by the idea that this was a vestige of Facebook past. This could apply to sharing the content of private messages, friends' lists and other information that Facebook gave its partners access to. The oldest deals date back to 2010, but all were active in 2017.

Among the companies that were granted privileged access to user data was The New York Times itself.

Whether aware or not, The Times reasons that the documents "raise questions about whether Facebook ran afoul of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] that barred the social network from sharing user data without explicit permission". A Yahoo spokesman declined to discuss the partnership in detail but said the company did not use the information for advertising.

"At no time did we access people's private messages on Facebook or ask for the ability to do so", a Netflix spokesperson said in response to the story.

The NYT report also sheds light on how Facebook shared data with over 60 manufacturers of mobile devices, with Apple being one of the most notable examples.

He said: "We have to seriously challenge the claim by Facebook that they are not selling user data". Given the well-documented spread of Facebook's tentacles throughout its meteoric rise, it was expected that numerous firms had access to user data.

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