Facebook Denies Claims Mobile Data Sharing Broke Privacy Pledges

Facebook co-founder Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in April

In addition to obtaining data on...

The head of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said on Monday he planned to ask Facebook Inc FB.O about a New York Times report that the social media company allowed Apple Inc AAPL.O and other device makers to have "deep" access to users' personal data without their consent.

However, Facebook blasted back at the Times report, saying the newspaper has misinterpreted the objective and function of its so-called "device-integrated APIs" - the software that allows hardware companies to bridge into Facebook's database to offer versions of the app on their operating systems.

Under some of the agreements, device makers could access the data of users' friends, even if they believed that they had barred sharing, the Times reported citing company officials.

And such reports are not something the company welcome following the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal, which involved a misuse of Facebook's data policies by the political strategy company and a failure by Facebook to properly stop such a thing from happening.

Michelle De Mooy, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Privacy and Data Project, told Threatpost that the incident once again undermines trust in the data ecosystem and highlights the misalignment between Facebook's understanding of reasonable data-sharing and its users' understanding. Samsung and Amazon have declined to comment on the matter.

The APIs now in question, according to Archibong, are very different from those used by Cambridge Analytica.

According to a report by The New York Times, Facebook made agreements with over sixty device makers to give them access to features such as the "Like" button.

"When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren't using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case", Zuckerberg said on Capitol Hill in April.

While the reporter appeared to have willingly given access to his Facebook data, the fact that the responses from his friends look to have been sucked up by BlackBerry's software is worrying, as the reporter's friends may not have agreed to such data syphoning by a non-Facebook service.

The new accusations center on Facebook's use of special APIs - application programming interfaces - that it created to allow users' data and profile information to be integrated into devices.

The revelation of such contracts calls into question whether the company adhered to the 2011 settlement it reached with the Federal Trade Commission, forcing the company to enact a number of measures to ensure users' information isn't shared without their consent. The company claims that these private APIs were "tightly controlled" in a statement posted on the Facebook newsroom.

Although Facebook reportedly began to end these partnerships this past April, a lot of them are still alive to this very day.

Facebook is under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and users around the world over its handling of users' data and the steps it takes to protect their privacy. They say that their biggest fear is giving a China a window into the USA government and military. "Over the last decade, around 60 companies have used them - including many household names such as Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung".

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