Published: Thu, December 20, 2018
Money | By Bruce West

Facebook Let Netflix and Spotify Read Users' Private Messages

Facebook Let Netflix and Spotify Read Users' Private Messages

Facebook also let Amazon learn users' names and contact information through friends and Yahoo utilized the platform to view streams of friends' posts as recently as this summer. "The only common theme is that they are partnerships that would benefit the company in terms of development or growth into an area that they otherwise could not get access to", said Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the FTC. The company said at the time that it got permission from users to do this.

In a response to the report, Facebook said none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without users' permission.

Apple and Spotify also claimed they weren't aware of the special access granted. Even Yandex claims, according to the NYT report, it didn't ask for or realize how much access Facebook had given it.

According to the Times, more than 150 companies benefitted from various levels of access given to them by Facebook. "You would have had to sign in with your Facebook account to use the integration offered by Apple, Amazon or another integration partner". Hopefully they will be able to steer policy towards providing concrete data protection and more transparency from Facebook and other tech companies. That access was granted to allow the companies to build their own unique implementations of a private message feature, allowing users to, for instance, send a Facebook message linking to a song.

The deals were all active in 2017, and some were still in effect this year, the Times reported.

Nonetheless, many users, including the New Zealand man who discovered the practice after downloading his Facebook data in March, were surprised that the company was logging this data. Second, people could have more social experiences - like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends - on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify. We have no evidence that Spotify ever accessed users' private Facebook messages. A Yahoo spokesman declined to discuss the partnership in detail but said the company did not use the information for advertising.

"I don't believe it is legitimate to enter into data-sharing partnerships where there is not prior informed consent from the user", said Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook.

For Facebook, this is the latest in a steady drip of privacy scandals.

Facebook settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2012 over charges that the company was deceiving consumers and forcing them to share more personal information than they had intended.

The Canadian bank RBC, also cited in the New York Times, said the deal with Facebook "was limited to the development of a service that enabled clients to facilitate payment transactions to their Facebook friends", and that it was discontinued in 2015.

Facebook has encountered one scandal after another.

"The flagrancy with which Facebook has flouted its consent decree shows it doesn't take the agency seriously", the group said in a statement.

Like this: