According to a report by The New York Times, Facebook made agreements with over sixty device makers to give them access to features such as the “Like” button. These arrangements allowed Facebook to expand its reach during the late-2000’s-early-2010’s when the Facebook app was not yet widely available on devices. Most of these partnerships are reportedly still going strong.
The New York Times claims that these partnerships allow companies such as Apple and Samsung to access a user’s and their friends’ personal information without their consent. One test indicated that an app called “The Hub” on a 2013 Blackberry device was able to retrieve the political views, religious beliefs, and upcoming events of one user’s 558 friends and other “identifying information” of 294,258 friends of his friends.
Some believe that these partnerships violate Facebook’s 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC stated that Facebook was “barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information” and was required to obtain a user’s explicit consent before overriding their privacy preferences. Each violation could result in a penalty of up to $16,000 USD.
Facebook has responded to the latest accusation and argues that it did not violate the FTC’s conditions. Ime Archibong, the company’s Vice President of Product Partnerships, remarked, “While we agreed with many of past concerns about the controls over Facebook information shared with third-party app developers, we disagree with the issues they’ve raised about these API’s.” He stated that Facebook’s partners were unable to use a customer’s information for anything but creating a Facebook-esque experience on their devices. He also remarked that Facebook is unaware of any violations by their partners. A user would reportedly need to actively consent to sharing information with their friends to get the results found in The New York Times report.
The FTC is already investigating Facebook due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The third-party app was accused of improperly accessing and handling the information of over 87 million Facebook users. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress to explain how Facebook treats user’s information in response to the outrage. Cambridge Analytica has since filed for bankruptcy and Facebook has suspended over 200 apps accused of mishandling data.