Application security, Compliance Management, Network Security, Privacy

Facebook defends sharing user data with mobile OEMs

Facebook is defending its privacy and data management practices again after the New York Times on Sunday reported that the social media giant has entered into agreements over the last decade to share user data with at least 60 mobile device manufacturers, in an effort to make its services and experiences available to device owners via integrated APIs.

According to the Times, these partnerships, which reportedly were extended to companies like Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung, raise concerns that the company may not have been fully complying with a 2011 FTC consent decree -- a suggestion that could once again turn up the heat on Facebook following its Cambridge Analytica data-sharing controversy.

The Times further reports that the data sharing agreements, 22 of which have already been phased out (in April, Facebook announced it would wind down access to the APIs), have allowed Facebook's OEM partners to access the personal data of users' friends without their explicit consent -- even those who previously denied permission to share information with third parties.

Despite Facebook leadership's contention that they have largely prohibited third parties like Cambridge Analytica from accessing such user data since 2015, they apparently excluded OEMs from these restrictions, the Times  report states. 

In a blog post, Facebook defended itself by explaining that mobile device manufacturers are considered trusted partners who essentially act as extensions of Facebook.

"Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go," states the blog post, authored by Ime Archibong, Facebook's VP of product partnerships. "These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences. Partners could not integrate the user's Facebook features with their devices without the user's permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built."

Facebook also disputed the Times' claims about OEMs having access to users' friends' information, asserting that "friends' information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends."

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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