New reports claim that Facebook has been allowing tech companies greater access to its users' data. Source: Shutterstock

New reports claim that Facebook has been allowing tech companies greater access to its users’ data. Source: Shutterstock

Facebook shared user data with more than 150 companies

LOOKS like Facebook is in trouble yet again.

Barely days after the social media giant was in the news for exposing photos of seven million of its users to third-party developers and apps, Facebook finds itself in the limelight again, for yet another data privacy offense, that is potentially far more egregious.

Recent exposé by the New York Times (NYT) claims that Facebook had allowed some of the biggest tech companies unrestricted access to its users’ personal data, much more than the social media network previously disclosed.

The report, citing Facebook’s internal documents, claimed that the company gave Microsoft’s Bing search engine access to Facebook users’ friends’ list and had allowed video and music streaming platforms, Netflix and Spotify, respectively, access to user’s private messages.

Amazon was allowed to access users’ names and contact information through friends, while friends’ posts were made available to Yahoo. The revelation contradicts Facebook’s claim that it has ceased data sharing of such nature.

As a result of previous discoveries made by media and regulators, shareholders have called for Zuckerberg to step down from the chief executive position.

The NYT report also claims that Facebook had agreements in place with more than 150 tech, media, automobile, and other companies, to provide access to data from more than a couple hundred millions of its users.

Facebook, however, denied speculations that it allowed these companies to override its users’ privacy setting.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s Director of Privacy and Public Policy, in a statement, said:

“Over the years, we’ve partnered with other companies so people can use Facebook on devices and platforms that we don’t support ourselves.

“Unlike a game, streaming music service, or other third-party app, which offer experiences that are independent of Facebook, these partners can only offer specific Facebook features and are unable to use information for independent purposes.”

A 2011 consent agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) required Facebook to strengthen privacy protections and disclose its data sharing practices more thoroughly, and concerns have been raised that the latest revelation may have violated that agreement.

Facebook meanwhile is adamant that the content sharing partnership is within an exemption to the agreement.

Regardless of whether or not the data sharing agreement violated any regulatory compliance, Facebook’s assurance that it will do more to protect users’ data has to be taken with a grain of salt, until a comprehensive user data policy revamp takes place.