Facebook is under fire, yet again! This time, New York Times reports that the company had a deal with at least 60 device makers, including Apple, Amazon, Blackberry, and Samsung over the last 10 years. The deal required Facebook to share deep access data and also provide access to data of the users’ Facebook friends.
This brings back the Cambridge Analytical scandal, right? But according to Facebook, it’s very different.
10 years ago, when there was no such thing as the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, Facebook offered APIs to allow device makers to “recreate Facebook-like experiences of their individual devices or operating systems.” In other words, the APIs referred here were used by device manufacturers back before standalone Facebook apps were available on different platforms, a situation that is very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers.
In the words of Ime Archibong, vice president of product partnerships:
In the early days of mobile, the demand for Facebook outpaced our ability to build versions of the product that worked on every phone or operating system. It’s hard to remember now but back then there were no app stores. So companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube had to work directly with operating system and device manufacturers to get their products into people’s hands. This took a lot of time — and Facebook was not able to get to everyone.
To bridge this gap, we built a set of device-integrated APIs that allowed companies to recreate Facebook-like experiences for their individual devices or operating systems. Over the last decade, around 60 companies have used them — including many household names such as Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung.
Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends,”
To conclude, Facebook claims that the data sharing through device-integrated APIs adhered to its privacy policies and the 2011 FTC agreement. The company also told the newspapers that it knew of no cases where a partner had misused data.
It is not yet clear what legal consequence(s) the article from New York Times will have on Facebook