The news headlines came in response to a bombshell ‘New York Times’ report that detailed how numerous companies had undisclosed usage of user data.
Facebook has acknowledged allowing others, namely Spotify and Netflix, to gain access to an incredible number of people’s private messages.
Giving an answer to a bombshell NY Times report from Tuesday on what Facebook shared user data with partners through the years, the business said it had given third-party companies extensive usage of messages.
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It said this is so people could get on services such as for example Spotify with their Facebook account and send messages through the Spotify app.
The business wrote in a post:
"Did partners access messages? Yes. But people had to explicitly register to Facebook first to employ a partner’s messaging feature. Take Spotify for instance. After signing directly into your Facebook account in Spotify’s desktop app, you could then receive and send messages without ever leaving the app. Our API provided partners with usage of the person’s messages to be able to power this kind of feature."
Citing internal Facebook documents, The Times said Spotify could start to see the messages greater than 70 million Facebook users per month. The Times reported that Spotify, Netflix, and the Royal Bank of Canada could read, write, and even delete people’s messages.
Both Spotify and Netflix, however, told The Times these were unaware they had this type of broad access. Facebook told The Times it found no proof abuse. Netflix told Business Insider it didn’t access anyone’s messages.
"Through the years we have tried other ways to create Netflix more social," a spokeswoman said. "One of these of this was an attribute we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend Television shows and movies with their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It had been never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. Never did we access people’s private messages on Facebook or require the opportunity to do so."
That Facebook could have deep integrations with third-party partners isn’t necessarily surprising, as the business’s former privacy chief Alex Stamos described. That can signal a wholesome, interoperable ecosystem.
"I am sorry, but allowing for third party clients is the sort of pro-competition move you want to see from dominant platforms," Stamos tweeted on Wednesday. "For ex, making Gmail only accessible to Android and the Gmail app will be horrible. For the NY Times to attempt to scandalize this sort of integration is wrong."
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More troubling to observers, however, was any sense that Facebook gave third parties deep usage of user data without properly informing users and gaining permission. Many people have a tendency to assume their private messages on social media will remain private.
Former Federal Trade Commission officials told The Times that Facebook’s newly revealed data-sharing agreements probably violated regulatory requirements.
For Facebook, here is the latest in a reliable drip of privacy scandals. It really is still fighting the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March and fighting regulatory fines. It has disclosed multiple breaches in the last few months, including a substantial hack affecting up to 50 million users disclosed in September.