Facebook reportedly provided at least sixty technology companies with user data, without the consent of those users. The external companies would be able to access much more data of the social network than intended, due to a ten-year-old agreement. Facebook denies the allegations.
The New York Times reports that companies like Apple, BlackBerry, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung received special access to Facebook data, mainly because app stores didn’t exist back then and Facebook didn’t develop its own apps yet. The special access allowed the tech giants to make their own Facebook apps for their own devices, something Facebook wasn’t technically able to at that time. E.g Blackberry users could only access Facebook through a Facebook app that was developed by BlackBerry itself.
However, the special access also made it possible to retrieve data of the friends of the app user, without that user’s consent. Some companies were reportedly able to retrieve information of users who thought they had disabled any way of data sharing. Although the special access was no longer needed with the rise of app stores, it could still be used by the companies. Only recently, Facebook started blocking access. According to The New York Times, at least 22 companies saw their access revoked.
The social network reportedly revoked access in April, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where an external access had access to data of 87 million users.
Facebook denies the allegations of The New York Times. The social network does confirm the special access feature for other companies. But according to Facebook, these companies have never abused their special access. Besides that, the companies could not use any Facebook functionality without permission of the user, the social network stresses. Facebook also denies that the companies with special access could retrieve data about the friends of the user, contrary to what The New York Times reports.
Special access for external companies is becoming less relevant, because Facebook itself now develops apps for the majority of platforms. For companies that need special access in the future, Facebook is working on an alternative.