Facebook Reveals Which Companies It Had A Special Data Access Relationship With

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

Facebook revealed late Friday that it had a special deal with certain companies, allowing them access to certain user data that others weren’t granted.

Specifically, the tech giant said that 61 companies had been provided with an exemption to a new rule that blocked apps from viewing or collecting details about people’s social media friends.

It comes in response to further questions lawmakers had that weren’t answered during congressional hearings involving CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Many pubic officials, and much of the public, have grown increasingly worried about Facebook’s effect on society, as well as its particular practices, after it disclosed in mid-March that it was suspending a data analytics firm for inappropriately collecting millions of Facebook users’ personal information.

Facebook supposedly said in the 747-page report sent to Congress that it had unique agreements with certain third-parties that gave them extra time to abide by new policies and satisfy its technical requirements.

“In April 2014, we announced that we would more tightly restrict our platform APIs [application programming interfaces] to prevent abuse. At that time we made clear that existing apps would have a year to transition — at which point they would be forced (1) to migrate to the more restricted API and (2) be subject to Facebook’s new review and approval protocols,” the report reads. “The vast majority of companies were required to make the changes by May 2015.”

Companies that weren’t immediately bound by the rules and were able to access users’ friends’ data for six months include tech companies like Oracle, Spotify, Panasonic and Snap as well as UPS, the dating app Hinge and Audi. Sixty companies were given the six month extension, while one was afforded eight extra months. (The full list is available on pages 95-96 of the report.)

“Why did Facebook wait so long to eliminate this function?” the company asked itself in the report.

Its answer essentially is: Everyone was doing it, and it was to enhance the user experience.

But it now promises to review its platform, “tell people about data misuse,” “turn off access for unused apps,” “restrict Facebook Login data,” “reward people who find vulnerabilities” and update its policies to reflect these changes.

“The purpose of these partnerships was to build Facebook and Facebook features into the partners’ devices and other products,” Facebook Vice President of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said in a statement obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “People were only able to access these experiences — and the information needed to support them — when they logged in or connected their Facebook account. In April, we publicly announced that we’d start shutting down these APIs — and we continue to make other changes that restrict the information people can share to better protect their privacy.”

The latest report follows a Wall Street Journal article in June that said Facebook had special agreements with certain companies. Some of those are included in Facebook’s lengthy communication with Congress, apparently showing that the WSJ report was true. (RELATED: Facebook Promises To Roll Back Relationships With Third-Party Data Brokers)

Perhaps most notably, the latest report from Facebook is fairly detailed, at least relative to the 450 pages of information it gave the Senate, which was seemingly riddled with generalities and legalese, for the most part — rather than candor and explicit details.

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