Facebook disputes story alleging it provided some companies special access to data of users' friend

Facebook, facing another scandal after it promised to emphasize privacy in new ad campaign, quibbles with the WSJ

Published June 9, 2018 2:58PM (EDT)

 (Getty/Sean Gallup)
(Getty/Sean Gallup)

Facebook's privacy debacle was not excluded to Cambridge Analytica. Dozens of companies received sensitive data. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the social media company had struck deals with certain companies, giving them broad access to information typically hidden from normal users. Specifically, these agreements, known internally at Facebook as "whitelists," allowed companies to see data of users' Facebook friends, including phone numbers and other metrics.

Companies such as the Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor Co., both advertisers on Facebook, had a whitelist agreement. According to the Journal, these agreements lasted through 2015. This revelation impugns Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's testimony before Congress, during which he alleged that his company stopped providing this type of special access in 2014.

It was the latest blow for the tech behemoth, which has faced heightened scrutiny since it became known that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm contracted by President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, had access to confidential data not available to other companies and users.

A Facebook spokesman told the Journal: “We take seriously our responsibility to protect customer privacy and we do not share individual client information with Facebook or other advertisers.”

The whitelist deals appeared to have arisen from an arrangement Facebook had with cell phone manufacturers and distributors back in 2015, which the New York Times reported on earlier this week, another devastating scandal that rocked the Silicon Valley-based company. According to the Times, some 60 companies were able to access the data of users' friends. I n an attempt to restrict access, Facebook  announced stricter rules pertaining to this data sharing, but it also also provided some companies extensions from complying with this new policy.

The Journal reported on Friday that the whitelist deals struck with Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor Co. were separate from the arrangement Facebook had with the tech-hardware companies in 2015. Yet Facebook denies this. Since the Journal broke its story, Facebook released a statement disputing this reporting, claiming that the Journal's Friday article was just an addendum to the Times' report from earlier this week.

Per Facebook:

For the most part this is a rehash of last week-end's New York Times story — namely that we built a set of device integrated APIs used by around 60 companies to create Facebook-like experiences. In April 2018, we announced that we were winding these down. In terms of our Platform APIs, the Journal has confused two points. In 2014, all developers were given a year to switch to the new, more restricted version of the API. A few developers including Nissan and RBC asked for a short extension — and those extensions ended several years ago. Any new 'deals,' as the Journal describes them, involved people's ability to share their border friends' lists — not their friends' private information like photos or interests — with apps under the more restricted version of the API. Per our testimony to Congress 'We required developers to get approval from Facebook before they could request any data beyond a user's public profile, friend list, and email address.

Regardless, news that Facebook has provided companies special access to its customers' information has shocked lawmakers both in the U.S. and Europe. It was a practice unthinkable years earlier. The 2016 presidential campaign did more than shed light on contemporary politics in America. It also spotlighted issues involving Americans relationship with the internet.

Facebook has tried to regain its trust with users by reintroducing its focus on privacy. It debuted a new advertising campaign last month that spoke to its new dedication.

By Taylor Link

MORE FROM Taylor Link

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Business Data Privacy Facebook Internet Mark Zuckerberg Privacy Social Media Technology