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Facebook Faces Scrutiny For Sharing Info With Device Makers

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As it turns out, Facebook handed an awful lot of user information over to phone and other device makers as it pushed to become the dominant social media network on the planet.

And it was not small number of device makers — according to New York Times reports, Facebook had data-sharing arrangements with at least 60 different device makers.  Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung are the highlights of the names on the list over the last ten years.

The practice, however, raised FCC concerns back in 2011 — and drew a compliance and consent decree.  At the time, Facebook admitted that it had offered up data not only from users, but from their friends as well, without getting explicit consent — though they did promise to stop sharing said data with outsiders.  The partnerships with device makers carried on, though Facebook reportedly began winding them down in April.

“You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”

Facebook, for its part has defended the data sharing and asserted that it is consistent with the firm’s privacy policies in-house — as well as with its agreement with the FCC. Further, it noted, though the contracts give device makers access, they do not offer unlimited access or the power to do whatever they want with the data.  There are rules — and Facebook says it knows of no instances where that data was misused.

“These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” said Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president. Unlike developers that provide games and services to Facebook users, the device partners can use Facebook data only to provide versions of “the Facebook experience,” the official said.

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