Facebook’s latest privacy stumble gave big tech access to your messages

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In this case, a report from The New York Times revealed the social media company gave an extreme amount of access to certain partner companies, over and above what users might have expected.

Papamiltiadis said that "we've been public about these features and partnerships over the years because we wanted people to actually use them".

In order for companies like Spotify to access personal messages, Facebook said users had to "explicitly sign in" to Facebook through the other companies' app.

However, he also criticised the Times' report for blurring the lines between access by third-party clients or OS integrations with what could be legitimate concerns about data being sent out to other companies.

Speaking of money, unfortunately for Facebook's investors, this PR nightmare is having a very real (negative) impact on the company's bottom line. The social media giant never sold the data and instead shared it with companies with which it entered into partnership agreements.

Facebook said it shut down almost all of these partnerships over the past several months, except Apple and Amazon. Hopefully they will be able to steer policy towards providing concrete data protection and more transparency from Facebook and other tech companies. It also interviewed over 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners.

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The NYT report also said Facebook gave companies like Netflix NFLX.O and Spotify SPOT.N the ability to read users' private messages and permitted Amazon AMZN.O to obtain users' names and contact information through their friends.

"Facebook's partners don't get to ignore people's privacy settings, and it's wrong to suggest that they do", Steve Satterfield, Facebook's director of privacy and public policy, said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

Among the companies that were granted privileged access to user data was The New York Times itself.

He said: "We have to seriously challenge the claim by Facebook that they are not selling user data". Maybe those special deals were fine to make, met the smell test of consent from Facebook users, and complied with Facebook's 2011 agreement with the US government to never again share user information without people's explicit permission. Users would have done this by using their Facebook account to log in to the other services, which, technically, counted as giving permission. Data access granted through that integration is not something we've used since the feature was shuttered in 2011. Facebook has been battered in the markets this year as the data privacy scandal unfolded.

"Still, we recognize that we've needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information using our APIs", the statement continues.

More troubling to observers, however, was any sense that Facebook gave third parties deep access to user data without properly informing users and gaining permission. The agency said in March it was looking into whether Facebook engaged in unfair acts that might have violated the decree.