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NYT: Facebook passed on enhanced user data to IT companies. Netflix and Spotify had access to messages.

Yandex is also mentioned in the list of partners. But the companies deny everything.

Facebook collaborated with Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify and Netflix, giving them access to users’ data in the social network. In some cases, companies could receive information even after they were supposed to be turned off – for example, Yandex. This was reported by The New York Times, citing the company’s internal documents and the testimony of 50 former employees.

What found The New York Times

According to the interlocutors of the publication, the social network exchanged data without the knowledge of users, despite the requirements of the Federal Trade Commission to get an explicit consent to the processing of information. The partners were more than 150 companies, most of which work in the field of technology, including online shopping and entertainment resources, as well as automakers and media.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Yandex had access to the unique identifiers of Facebook users. According to the NYT, the social network has denied cooperation with the Russian search engine, but confirmed this information in the US Congress. A spokesperson for Yandex told reporters that she did not understand why the social network could provide this data.[/perfectpullquote]

Recorded NYT records show that it was about getting data from hundreds of millions of users per month. The very first deals were concluded in 2010, and for 2017 all contracts continued to be valid. In 2018, some companies still received data, according to documents.

Three types of partnerships with Facebook:

  • The first is called “integrations” and it involves the use of special applications that the social network implements for OEMs of smartphones, such as BlackBerry;
  • The second type of partnerships – is already inactive part of the program“instant personalization”. She assumed that Facebook partners would be able to customize their services for users, using data from the social network. An example of such interaction was a deal with Bing and Yelp. The program has worked since 2010, but was closed in 2014 due to criticism of the system. Journalists confirmed that Bing received data in 2017;
  • The third type is a one-time deal with Facebook. According to the documents, in this format the social network worked with Spotify, Netflix, Royal Bank of Canada. Sources of the newspaper claim that companies had access to the “reading and sending” user messages. This was allegedly the result of using the new API, launched in 2010. Journalists say that Spotify, for example, could connect to a message box to send songs to a user’s friends.

What data did technology companies get from Facebook:

  • Apple had access to user contacts and calendar entries, even if the user denied sharing. This was part of a deal that is still active. The company said it was not aware of this, and the data never left the device;
  • Amazon received user names and contact information for an already inactive transaction. The company did not want to discuss how it used the data, stating that it was done “properly”;
  • The search engine Bing received user names and other information, as well as a list of his friends. Microsoft said it deleted the data. The Facebook clarified that it was only about “public” data;
  • Spotify, Netflix and Royal Bank of Canada could read user messages. All three companies deny this possibility.

What did Facebook, Netflix and Yandex answer?

Facebook stated that the company still has “a lot of work to regain trust”. At the same time, representatives of the social network noted that data transmission had advantages, including “more individual” experience in other services.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Our partners could not ignore the security settings and mistakenly think otherwise. For many years, we have collaborated with other companies so that users can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we do not support ourselves. Unlike games, streaming services and third-party applications, these partners could use only certain functions, and not all the information for their own purposes.[/perfectpullquote]
Steve Satterfield
Director of Privacy and Public Policy Facebook

In a conversation with The Verge, Netflix representatives began to deny that the service saw user messages. According to them, it was only about improving the recommendations.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Over the years, we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social. One example of this was the feature that allowed subscribers to recommend movies and TV shows to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It has never been particularly popular, so we turned off this feature in 2015. We never received access to personal messages of users or did not ask for it.[/perfectpullquote]
Netflix representatives

The press service of “Yandex” said  that the agreement with Facebook implied the right to index public data, that is, publicly available information from pages and entries marked “Available to everyone. The company claims that the agreement affected only the information of Facebook users in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, other CIS countries and Turkey. The agreement was signed in January 2014, but after a year, Yandex stopped receiving data, representatives added.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Yandex and other search engines stopped receiving data from Facebook in 2015 after Facebook recalled the API through which data was transmitted. “Yandex” strictly complied with all the terms of the agreement upon receipt of data. Protecting users’ personal data and security are the main priorities of Yandex.[/perfectpullquote]
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