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At Least 60 Device Makers Got Deep Access To Facebook User Data

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Facebook has reportedly been sharing loads of user data and friends' data with at least 60 device makers over the past decade. Phone and tablet makers often had deep access to that data without any kind of user consent.  ( William Iven | Pixabay )

Facebook's privacy woes continue as a new report reveals that the social networking company gave deep access to user data to at least 60 phone and tablet makers.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal raised more awareness about Facebook's practices and more information on how the company handles users' data is now coming to light.

Back in 2015, amid similar concerns, Facebook revoked third parties' access to one's Facebook friends list. As it turns out, the same does not apply to the device makers that are collaborating with Facebook.

Facebook User Data Shared With Device Makers

The New York Times reports that Facebook has deals in store with at least 60 phone and tablet makers such as Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, Microsoft, and more, giving them deep access to user data. Unlike third parties, these device makers also had access to one's friends' data, which may stand in violation of a Federal Trade Commission consent decree from 2011.

According to the NYT, these device makers often had deep access to users' friends' data without needing any explicit consent. Facebook's partnerships with device makers allowed OEMs to integrate Facebook features into their devices.

Why It Was Necessary

At some point in the past, when some phones might not have had good enough specs to run Facebook apps, these integrations were necessary. There were no app stores, and Facebook apps were not as widely available on mobile as they are today. As such, Facebook and device makers had to work together to provide alternatives for delivering the Facebook experience on various devices and operating systems.

Nowadays, however, they could easily do without. Facebook apps are easily available and accessible, and the past hurdles have long been resolved.

Nevertheless, the NYT report clearly reveals that Facebook did not deem device makers as third parties, thus, giving them deep access to user data without requiring user consent. Facebook has been working to update its policies and put an end to these partnerships.

On the bright side, the roughly 60 device makers who got access to Facebook user data over the past decade reportedly signed agreements pledging to use the information only to deliver "Facebook-like" experience on their phones and tablets. Facebook says that to its knowledge, no data was misused by OEMs with such agreements in place.

Facebook's Data Sharing Practices

The issue still raised some controversy, and privacy experts are not comfortable with Facebook's data sharing practices.

"It's like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission," says Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who previously worked as the chief technologist at the FTC.

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