Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Alarmed senators are calling for the federal government to regulate Facebook with the disclosure the social media giant illegally granted tech firm partners such as Microsoft and Amazon more intrusive access to user data and without informing users of this.
This revelation made in bombshell expose by The New York Times means Facebook violated a consent agreement it made with the U.S. Federal Telecommunications Commission (FTC) made in 2012. This agreement prohibits Facebook from sharing user data without permission because its partner companies were acting on its behalf. Violating the agreement carries a multi-billion dollar fine.
The Times report alleges Facebook knowingly maintained improper partnerships far more recently, and with a large number of companies despite the consent agreement with the FTC.
It said Facebook gave partner tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix unprecedented access to user data. Facebook allowed tech companies to view private messages and contact information as recently as this year, said the Times. Previously, Facebook allowed third parties access to other data such as lists of friends and email addresses.
It’s been revealed that companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Spotify and Apple have special agreements with Facebook that let them access data. The revelation contradicts Facebook’s public statements to the contrary.
The expose has outraged members of the U.S. Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) blasted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for not disclosing the full scope of the agreements during a Senate hearing in the spring. At the time, Zuckerberg assured the Senate Facebook users have complete control of their data.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) called for the FTC to police Facebook more aggressively. He said Facebook’s seemingly unrestrained sharing of user data “is the privacy equivalent of the BP oil spill … We will be paying the price for decades.”
Facebook admitted in a blog post to granting tech companies wide-ranging access but alleges it was a means to help users. The company said the features are critical to the core functionality of Facebook. It claims it has discontinued much of this access.
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