Facebook denies report it gave extensive user data to phone makers

Through partnerships that Facebook has with at least 60 device makers including Apple, Samsung, Amazon, BlackBerry and Microsoft, the social network has been sharing members' personal information with the manufacturers.

Kogan developed an app that required people to sign in using their Facebook accounts - and that then harvested data about those users and their friends, that was then used by Cambridge Analytica to develop psychological profiles of US voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. What was the point of permitting these hardware makers to have this information? Now, shares have recovered all of their losses.

Facebook might have thought that it could ease up now that the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal was dying down slightly, but a New York Times report has again put the company's policies under a spotlight. In April, Facebook started ending the agreements though a lot of them still remain in effect.

The partnerships themselves are no big secret - Facebook has been cultivating them for years, and they're often announced publicly, as Facebook confirmed in a blog post. As usual, when Facebook is given an option to be open and transparent, it opts for obfuscation.

The New York Times found that the social networking service concluded data-sharing partnerships with device making companies to expand its reach and let them offer their clients popular Facebook features such as messaging and address books.

Newly at issue is a series of relationships brokered over the past decade between Facebook and roughly 60 firms, including Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung.

She has only mentioned BlackBerry because it was the only name given by Facebook when explaining or justifying its partnerships and agreements with device makers.

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Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said that a New York Times report appears to show that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg lied about the company sharing users' data. A Times reporter logged into his Facebook account on that app, gaining access not only to detailed information about 556 friends, including sensitive stuff about religious and political leanings, but also to identifying information on 294,258 friends-of-friends. "As always we're working closely with our partners to provide alternative ways for people to still use Facebook", concluded Archibong.

Bottom line: It's more bad news for Facebook as the social network is again accused of privacy violations.

Facebook even is disingenuous when it is trying to be complimentary. The deals were arranged before Facebook apps were as widely available as they are today, and most remain in effect, though the story quotes one former Facebook employee who says the issue "was flagged internally as a privacy issue" back in 2012.

The report raises questions over whether or not Facebook violated a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that it would not override users privacy settings without first getting their expressed consent.

The counterargument: Facebook responded to the article directly in a press release.

Facebook declined Monday to detail a full list of device makers with which it had brokered such arrangements.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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