Facebook responds to claims that it shared users' private messages

Mark Zuckerberg

"In all, the deals described in the documents benefited more than 150 companies - majority tech businesses, including online retailers and entertainment sites, but also automakers and media organizations". In addition, streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify were able to access "users' private messages", including the ability to "read, compose and delete messages, and to see all participants on a thread", NTY reported.

Another problem is the timeline - numerous deals referred to were still active in 2017, and some continued into this year.

Facebook also reportedly also gave a cabal of Silicon Valley tech giants access to detailed personal information about its users without their consent.

Examples given include Bing, which could see the names of "virtually all" Facebook users' friends; Netflix and Spotify, which the paper claimed could "read" users' private messages; and Amazon, which gained users' names and contact details through their friends.

Representatives for Spotify and Netflix told the Times that they were "unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them", while a Royal Bank of Canada spokesperson disputed that the bank had such access. The news outlet reviewed more than 270 pages of Facebook's internal documents and even monitored the information being transferred between Facebook and partner devices and websites using technical analysis.

The report also sheds light on some worrying aspects of Facebook's reckless handling of user data even when there are security flags. "Partnerships are one area of focus and, as we've said, we're winding down the integration partnerships that were built to help people access Facebook".

Facebook said it has "been public about these features and partnerships over the years" and that most are now gone, but admitted it needed to do more.

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

Shares of Facebook are down nearly 20 percent for the year to date. At the same time, Facebook got critical data back from its partners.

Papamiltiadis added that "none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people's permission", and maintained that the deals did not violate a 2012 privacy settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission. Facebook did say that it had mismanaged some of its partnerships, allowing certain companies' access to continue long after they had shut down the features that required the data.

The company said these partners got access to messages but users "had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first" before using a partner's messaging feature.

More troubling to observers, however, was any sense that Facebook gave third parties deep access to user data without properly informing users and gaining permission.

However, as recently as last week it was also reported that a bug may have exposed millions of Facebook users' private photos to third party apps. Any shared data would remain on the devices and be available to anyone other than the users, according to Apple.

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