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Facebook shared user data with Apple, Samsung; company denies charge (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III; Science and Technology)

With whom facebook shared user data?
Facebook is under scanner once again, with the company now accused of sharing users’ private information with a number of device makers. A New York Times investigation has revealed that the social media company formed a data-sharing partnership with 60 device makers including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and gave access to personal information from the app. Facebook has denied the charges made in the report, and also issued a blog post explaining the same.

Why did facebook share data?
The New York Times revealed that the deal allowed Facebook to expand its reach with device makers offering “customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.” According to the report, Facebook’s agreement raises questions about the company’s privacy protections and as well compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the US Federal Trade Commission, which the company had signed.

What is wrong with sharing data?
According to the NYT report, users had not given explicit permission for their data, their friends’ data to be shared with outsiders, which in this case would be the device marker. The investigation also claims that in some cases, these device makers “retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing.”

While Facebook in April mentioned that the company would begin winding down access to its device-integrated APIs, the New York Times revealed that most of these partnerships with device makers are still alive.

What is Facebook defence?
However, Facebook defended the data sharing agreement and said that these are consistent with the company’s privacy policies, FTC agreement and pledges to users.

But, Facebook admitted that some partners did store user data, including information of a user’s friends on their own servers. In a blog post on Facebook, Ime Archibong who is Vice President of product partnerships, said that the device-integrated APIs were controlled tightly.

“Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built,” Ime said in the blog post. The company also claims that information of friends like photos were only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends.  “We are not aware of any abuse by these companies,” claims Facebook.

 “This is very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers, like Aleksandr Kogan. 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,” he further added.

What is the context?
Facebook is under intense scrutiny from regulators, lawmakers, because of the Cambridge Analytica data leaks. The scandal raised concern about public APIs used by third-party developers and Facebook’s data sharing policy.

(Adapted from The Indian Express)



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