Facebook hit back at a report which said it enabled device makers to access “vast amounts of its users’ personal information”, as a result of earlier deals intended to extend the reach of the social networking giant.
A report by The New York Times said Facebook took the view the device makers are “not outsiders”, meaning they could obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, including those who denied permission to share information with third parties. The newspaper said this had been flagged internally as an issue as far back as 2012, although it is only recently such relationships with device makers are being wound-down.
Ime Archibong, VP of product partnerships at Facebook, said the company disagrees with the issue raised, stating: “friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends”.
“We are not aware of any abuse,” he continued.
Archibong said its agreements with device makers stemmed from a time when “the demand for Facebook outpaced our ability to build versions of the product that worked on every phone or operating system”. While the company cited “household names such as Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung” as having access to device-integrated APIs, in total around 60 companies have used them.
With Android and iOS dominating the smartphone market, “fewer people rely on these APIs to create bespoke Facebook experiences”. As a result, the scheme is being wound-down, with 22 such partnerships having ended already.
While there was no suggestion of wrongdoing, the timing could not be much worse for Facebook, coming shortly on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal. The company’s management has come under pressure from shareholders and regulators.