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11 June 2018, 07:30 | Kelvin Horton
Facebook let select companies have “special access” to user data, per report
As per the people who know in great detail about the matter, the information that some companies have been granted access to data was hidden from developers who are associated with Facebook.
Facebook maintained secret deals with a handful of companies, allowing them to gain "special access to user records", long after it cut off most developers' access to such user data back in 2015, according to a new Friday report by the Wall Street Journal, citing court documents it did not publish and other unnamed sources. Under that disclosure, Facebook said it had some deals in place with a small number of entities through which users' friends data was accessible, but the company said it stopped providing access to it in 2015.
"That included information like phone numbers and a metric called "friend link" that measured the degree of closeness between users and others in their network, the people said", the daily reported.
In a tweet responding to the allegations, the company suggested the report had "confused" the timeline of these extensions, after partners were informed in 2014 of a one-year period before access would be cut-off in 2015. The agreements were also completely separate from Facebook's data sharing program with device manufacturers, which the company owned up to earlier this week.
"But other than that, things were shut down", he said. Numerous extensions lasted weeks and months, Facebook said. "A few developers including Nissan and RBC asked for a short extension - and those extensions ended several years ago". Still, the Journal reports that it isn't clear when the deals expired or what companies received extensions.
The Journal's report capped another tough week for Facebook as it continues to grapple with the fallout from a privacy scandal that erupted almost three months ago with the revelation that a data mining firm tied to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign had scooped up the personal information of 87 million users. Those agreements provided access to friends' data, raising compliance issues with a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook is facing intense scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users' data after the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal became public.
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