When you hear the term private messages you believe that means messages no one but yourself and the recipient can read. But apparently, that’s not how Facebook sees it. According to a New York Times report, the company willingly shared users’ private messages and other data with large tech companies. According to The New York Times, the data-sharing agreements were made with more than 150 companies.
The report claims that Facebook granted access to companies like Netflix, Spotify, and Microsoft Bing. Not only did these companies get access to personal data but also the aforementioned private messages. These deals are laid out in documents released internally by Facebook in 2017 and obtained by The New York Times.
UPDATED (12/19/2018 12:02 P.M. EST): A Netflix spokesperson reached out to us with the following statement on this story:
“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social. One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.”
ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUED:
The agreements were intended to push the rapid user growth of Facebook and raise its advertising value. While Facebook’s partners used Facebook users’ private data to streamline their products making them more appealing, Facebook allowed the Bing search engine to read the names of Facebook users’ friends list without asking for consent. Netflix and Spotify were given access to users’ private messages. The company also let Amazon obtain names and contacts through friends lists and allowed Yahoo similar access.
NYT investigation: Internal Facebook records show that the company gave Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix and other tech giants far more intrusive access to your personal data than it ever disclosed https://t.co/lT3yQpodkw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 19, 2018
In all, the data of “hundreds of millions of people” were sought monthly by applications made by these Facebook business partners, according to the Times. Some of these partnerships reportedly remain in effect today.
Facebook’s director of developer platforms Konstantino Papamiltiadis responded to The New York Times report in a blog post:
“None of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC,”
We’ve been public about these features and partnerships over the years because we wanted people to actually use them – and many people did. They were discussed, reviewed, and scrutinized by a wide variety of journalists and privacy advocates.
But most of these features are now gone. We shut down instant personalization, which powered Bing’s features, in 2014 and we wound down our partnerships with device and platform companies months ago, following an announcement in April. Still, we recognize that we’ve needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information using our APIs. We’re already in the process of reviewing all our APIs and the partners who can access them.
It’s a brave new world out there where personal data is now the money maker. You and I are the product and
tech data companies like Facebook are willing to harvest and sell us to make billions. Be sure to check out The New York Times report if you can.