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Facebook ‘Whitelists’ Granted Firms Access To Walled-Off User Data

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Facebook is facing allegations that it inked data-sharing deals with certain companies, providing special access to user information after 2015 when it said it no longer engaged in that practice, reported the Wall Street Journal.

According to a report in the paper which cites court documents, company officials and people familiar with the matter, the agreements known internally as “whitelists” allowed certain companies to access additional data about the users’ Facebook friends such as phone numbers and a metric that shows the degree of closeness between a user and the people in his or her network. According to the Wall Street Journal, some of the companies that had those deals with Facebook include Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor. What’s more, the paper noted that Facebook has given special data access to more companies than previously disclosed, which could raise more questions about who is accessing all of the data on the users of Facebook and what they are doing with the data. The data sharing deals with the companies are also separate from the data sharing partnerships Facebook has with 60 or more device makers and was disclosed last week. Lawmakers have called for further inquiries into Facebook’s relationship with the device makers. It’s not clear if it will do the same now with companies that have agreements with the social media giant.

Facebook officials told the Wall Street Journal that it inked deals with developers to improve the user experience, to test new features and to enable some companies to end existing data sharing partnerships. It said a small number of partners were able to access the users’ friends after the data was turned off for developers in 2015 with many of the extensions lasting weeks and/or months. Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships, told the paper Facebook kept a “consistent and principled approach to how we work with developers over the course of the past 11 years.” He noted that there were instances where it worked more closely with developers, but that “we have been extremely, I would say, persistent and objective around how we worked with developers.”

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