Facebook Granted Companies "Special Access" to User Records, Report Claims

Facebook's privacy behavior just keeps getting worse.

Facebook’s dubious forms of data-sharing didn’t begin or end with Cambridge Analytica. According to the latest investigation, the social network struck deals with select companies, offering them special access to user records well after Facebook claimed it walled off that information.

Last week, Facebook disclosed its data-sharing partnerships with more than 60 device makers. But according to a report on Friday from The Wall Street Journal some of these agreements gave the clients access to additional information such as a user’s Facebook friends, phone numbers, and a metric called “friend link” that measured the degree of closeness between two users.

Mark Zuckerberg after testifying before Congress in April

Flickr / ahhhnice

Known internally as “whitelists,” these types of special-access deals were struck with companies including Nissan Motor Company and the Royal Bank of Canada. The whitelist level of access was granted to these and other companies long after 2015 when Facebook said in court documents that it had walled off that kind of information. This raises serious concerns about who else has access to the data of billions of Facebook users that the company once promised was safe from developers’ reach.

Facebook officials said that the company struck these data-sharing deals with only a small number of developers with the sole intention of improving the user experience and testing new features. The company also said it allowed only a “small number” of partners to access data relating to users’ friends after that service was shut off to developers in 2015. However, it appears that offer never expired for Nissan or the Royal Bank of Canada, who happen to also be highly valued advertisers with the company, according to the report.

Mark Zuckerberg and his social network empire are already embroiled in controversy over Facebook’s lackluster attempts at protecting user privacy. Before this latest blunder, Congress was already demanding the company be held accountable for the flow of that data. Now, several lawmakers and regulators are demanding these company agreements are placed under further investigation.

Since Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress in April, Facebook has struggled to convince users that their privacy is valued. The latest revelation suggests that the market value of user data continues to be the company’s priority.

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