MPs call for Facebook antitrust probe over data access scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees joint hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington U.S

Some companies, including Sony, Microsoft and Amazon, were allowed to view users' contacts through their friends. Facebook argues that its partners are essentially an extension of itself, as service providers, and thus they don't need to get permission from users as long as they limit data use to providing Facebook-related services.

To TheDCNF's knowledge, The Times does not have a formal policy on whether its journalists can peruse the extraordinary breadth of information given by social media companies to its business and advertising departments. It is noteworthy that Facebook users are allowed to hide their Friends' list from not only outsiders but also from those on their list.

Those arrangements allowed companies such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix to have a sometimes unsettling level of access to Facebook users' information.

Apple and Spotify also claimed they weren't aware of the special access granted.

My bigger issue with Facebook is it has missed repeated opportunities to come clean about the scope and breadth of its information pipelines with outside companies.

In the case of Microsoft, Facebook allowed its Bing search engine to see the names of all Facebook users friends without their permission or knowledge.

According to the Times, more than 150 companies benefitted from various levels of access given to them by Facebook.

"Over the years, we've partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don't support ourselves", he said.

In an interview, Steve Satterfield, Facebook's director of privacy and public policy, said none of the partnerships violated users' privacy or the FTC agreement.

Netflix has also denied reading users' private messages on Facebook, but is also being put on blast for making light of the situation.

Some deals reach back to 2010, The Times noted, and all were active in 2017.

The arrangements bypassed Facebook's typical privacy protections, making it harder for users to determine where and how their data was being shared by using the tools Facebook had made available for that objective.

Numerous third-party data agreements described in the Times article appeared to have been relatively unused or dormant, and the news organization didn't identify examples of Facebook's partners siphoning mass amounts of information about Facebook users or otherwise abusing their access.

Disclosing such information violated Facebook's normal privacy rules and was meant to help companies better target consumers, while raising internal advertising revenues, according to the report. Facebook has said there is no evidence that data was used or misused, but such assurances aren't worth much in the current climate. We shut down instant personalisation, which powered Bing's features, in 2014 and we wound down our partnerships with device and platform companies months ago, following an announcement in April.

The social network has been under intense pressure over its practices over the past year, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a series data breaches and concerns over fake news and other content on the site.

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