Social media giant Facebook gave multiple tech companies including Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft access to far more user data than Cambridge Analytica ever dreamed of accessing.
A recent report from the New York Times reveals that Facebook formed “data partnerships” with companies such as Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Yahoo, granting these companies access to more user data than Cambridge Analytica ever had. This is an important note to make as Cambridge Analytica allegedly had access to the personal data of 87 million users which resulted in a scandal that Facebook is still recovering from.
The recent report from the New York Times states:
Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.
The social network permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.
Cambridge Analytica may still be in possession of the user data of Faceook, despite their claims of deleting data when requested by Facebook in 2015. A report from Channel 4 News claims that some of the data may not have been deleted and that they have directly seen data troves that date back to 2014.
Paul Grewal, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, also commented on the fact that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted all of the user data saying:
“Two weeks ago, we received reports from media, including Channel 4, that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted. Cambridge Analytica have confirmed publicly that they no longer have the data, others are challenging this, we are determined to find out the facts. The ICO has launched an investigation into Cambridge Analytica and we are assisting with this. We want to assure people that we have suspended Cambridge Analytica from Facebook.”
But now, it appears that while the Cambridge Analytica situation may be an example of an outside firm taking advantage of the Facebook platform, Facebook was knowingly engaging in very similar practices with established tech firms for monetary gain. This was suspected following the leak of legal documents related to the startup Six4Three that is currently suing Facebook.
Breitbart News reported earlier this month that the U.K. Parliament’s fake news inquiry published a number of seized Facebook documents, which include emails between senior members of Facebook staff and other employees. One of the key takeaways from the documents was Facebook’s efforts to monetize its users’ personal data, in one particular email it appears that the company has a minimum app-advertising spending fee for developers in order to continue accessing the personal data of Facebook users.
The latest report from the Times appears to show that Facebook actively made deals with other companies to gain access to user data. The report states:
Some of the access deals described in the documents were limited to sharing non-identifying information with research firms or enabling game makers to accommodate huge numbers of players. These raised no privacy concerns. But agreements with about a dozen companies did. Some enabled partners to see users’ contact information through their friends — even after the social network, responding to complaints, said in 2014 that it was stripping all applications of that power.
As of 2017, Sony, Microsoft, Amazon and others could obtain users’ email addresses through their friends. Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers. Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them. A Royal Bank of Canada spokesman disputed that the bank had any such access.
The report further states that it was more than just a handful of firms with access to confidential user data: “Facebook’s internal records also revealed more about the extent of sharing deals with over 60 makers of smartphones, tablets and other devices, agreements first reported by The Times in June,” the report states.
So while Facebook executives acted with outrage over the actions of Cambridge Analytica and promised no such situation would ever arise on their platform again, it would appear that the company was directly engaged in similar practices, and they appear to show no signs of stopping these practices anytime soon.