Facebook seems to be mired in yet another controversy regarding its sharing of user data. While the company had claimed that it cut off developer access to the private data of its users back in 2015, a new report from The Wall Street Journal claims the company continued to provide access to certain companies even after this cut-off date. The company defended itself by raising questions about the accuracy of certain facts given in the report.
WSJ claims the company continued to allow certain companies, that were internally referred to as being "whitelisted", special access to records even after it purported to have stopped doing so. The report indicated that this data pertained to users' friends, such as their phone numbers and a measure of how closely linked individuals were in a shared network of friends.
The list of companies provided access included the likes of Nissan, Royal Bank of Canada, Nuance Communications, Apple, and Microsoft. These companies, and possibly others, were given extensions of many weeks to months after the stipulated deadline, the company admitted.
Facebook claimed its reasoning behind the extensions was to improve users' experiences, test new features and to allow existing partners to wind-down their operations gradually.
This story has confused 2 points. 1) In 2014, all developers were given a year to switch to the new platform API. A few developers including Nissan and RBC asked for a short extension — extensions that ended several years ago. https://t.co/wbz5h2YPuV— Facebook (@facebook) June 8, 2018
2) Any new 'deals', as the Journal describes them, involved people's ability to share their broader friends' lists — NOT their friends' private information like photos or interests — with apps under the more restricted version of the API.— Facebook (@facebook) June 8, 2018
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. This, however, doesn't really detract from what the report says, given certain extensions extended beyond 2015. Microsoft, for example, had access to users' friends list until 2016. The Redmond giant used this information to scour the posts of friends to tailor search results in Bing.
Source: The Wall Street Journal