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Facebook Reportedly Gave Tech Companies Access to User Data Beyond Disclosures

Facebook gave tech companies like Amazon, Spotify, and Microsoft more access to user data than the company had previously disclosed.

According to a New York Times report, the special arrangements were discovered in internal Facebook documents that track partnerships and were acquired by the Times.

The report states that Facebook gave Netflix and Spotify access to users’ private messages in order to share tracks and shows via Messenger, and allowed Bing to view users’ friends lists without the users’ consent. Facebook also let Amazon learn users’ names and contact information through friends and Yahoo utilized the platform to view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer.

The deals between the companies were designed to benefit both parties: Facebook would gain more users and become more embedded across websites while the outside companies would be able to tailor their products more effectively. Overall, deals were struck with more than 150 companies, mostly online retailers, entertainment companies, or other tech businesses.

According to Facebook director of privacy and public policy Steve Satterfield, none of the partnerships violated users’ privacy or FTC regulations, and the companies were required to abide by Facebook policies. Per the agreements, Facebook considered the outside companies’ access an enhancement of its own features, and as a result did not have to seek additional permissions from users since the access was governed by Facebook’s terms of use.

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Another spokeswoman told the Times that Facebook did not find evidence of abuse by the companies. Facebook did admit it had not been vigilant about managing the partnerships, and that some companies were able to continue accessing data despite the features that required it falling out of use.

The news brings further scrutiny to the question of whether Facebook abides by the privacy control it claims to give its users. The tech giant has been rocked by a series of privacy scandals over recent months, but has maintained that users’ have complete control over how their data is used by the company.

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