A Sunday report from The New York Times reveals that the social network offered Apple, Samsung, and dozens of other device makers "access to vast amounts of its users' personal information", including, in some cases, the data of users' friends who "believed they had barred any sharing". From there, the BlackBerry Hub could access information from 556 of the user's friends; including relationship status, political leanings, and events.
At least one member of Congress regarded new information about Facebook's data-sharing partnerships with tech companies as evidence that the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lied to lawmakers in April about the control users have over their information on the social media platform.
The handset ran an app called Hub, which was created to collate information from a variety of social media platforms into one place. Facebook responded to the report in a blog post titled "Why We Disagree with The New York Times".
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Facebook, according to The Times, signed agreements with Apple, Blackberry, Microsoft and Samsung over the last 10 years - providing them access to users' data. "To bridge this gap, we built a set of device-integrated APIs that allowed companies to recreate Facebook-like experiences for their individual devices or operating systems".
In interviews to NYT, Facebook defended its data-sharing agreement and asserted that these are consistent with its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users. Microsoft (msft) said any data its software got from Facebook stayed on users' devices and was not uploaded to its own servers.
Archibong says that friends' information was only accessible on devices where people explicitly chose to share their information. According to the Times, however, an exemption was given to the device makers and they reportedly kept the access to the data. In April, multiple committees on Capitol Hill had peppered him with questions about Facebook's dealings with Cambridge Analytica. Feature phones continued to outsell smartphones in North America for several more years, and feature phones still dominate the markets in India and Africa, which have tens of millions of Facebook users.
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In its response to the Times article, Facebook says that with the current dominance of iOS and Android operating systems, it's been "winding down" access of APIs. These partnerships were put in place starting in 2007, with the objective of giving device manufacturers access to Facebook features, while simultaneously spreading the use of Facebook into the mobile sphere.
Apple said that it had previously used the software interfaces to allow iPhone users to do things like post photos to Facebook without opening the app, but that its device access was terminated in September.
Apple announced at today's WWDC it was rolling out stronger security and privacy features which help keep user data from being exploited.
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