Facebook revealed that it made a deal to give dozens of app developers, hardware device manufacturers and software developers special access to user data, despite having stated that it did not release personal information to outsiders starting in 2015. In a 747-page document released to Congress last Friday, Facebook described those deals in much greater detail, and also stated why it believed these special deals were necessary to allow developers and manufacturers to become compliant with changes in its policies.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook added that special deals were necessary for “device and software makers to create versions of the social network for their products.” It also disclosed that it “was still sharing information of users’ friends, such as name, gender, birth date, current city or hometown, photos and page likes, with 61 app developers nearly six months after it said it stopped access to this data in 2015, ” to give them an extension to come into compliance.
Dating app Hinge and UPS were two such developers. Five other companies “theoretically could have accessed limited friends’ data” because they were part of a Facebook experiment.
Previously, Facebook vice president of product partnerships Ime Archibong had said the special deals were “with individual developers to test new features or when winding down products,” and that, it maintained a “consistent and principled approach to how we work with developers over the course of the past 11 years.” WSJ exposed in a June article that Facebook “struck customized data-sharing deals that gave select companies such as Nissan Motor access to user records for their apps well after the point in 2015 when it said it walled off that information.”
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee got the 747-page document in response to its questions following chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in April. This follows Facebook’s effort to answer questions in June in a 450-page document that deflected “some questions about its influence and market power while offering some detail about the information it collects on users.”
Former Facebook employees and developers said that, “many of the app developers that scooped up unusually large chunks of data are out of business” and others are not responding to Facebook’s request for information. In the latest document, Facebook reported it “shared information about its users with 52 hardware and software makers,” including Amazon, Apple and Microsoft as well as Chinese companies Huawei and Alibaba Group Holding.
Fourteen companies still have access to user information and seven “will continue to have this access until July.” Apple, Amazon and accessibility app Tobii inked agreements with Facebook to continue to have access to the data beyond October.
Facebook Tells EU It Faces Tough Time Regaining Users’ Trust, Bloomberg, 7/2/18
Facebook’s Disclosures Under Scrutiny as Federal Agencies Join Probe of Tech Giant’s Role in Sharing Data With Cambridge Analytica, The Washington Post, 7/2/18
Facebook Is Using Machine Learning to Self-Tune Its Myriad Services, TechCrunch, 6/28/18
Spiral: Self-Tuning Services via Real-Time Machine Learning, Facebook, 6/28/18