Facebook gave ‘special access to user records’ to some companies, report claims

A new revelation has come forward regarding Facebook and its data sharing practices with a report from The Wall Street Journal claiming that the social networking company provided select companies “customised data-sharing deals” that let them gain “special access to user records”.

The report cites court documents and unnamed sources and claims that Facebook gave data access to some companies while “others were cut off”. Under these special deals, Facebook gave select companies special access to user records well after the point in 2015 that the social network has said it walled off that information. The arrangement with the companies was called the “whitelists” that allowed “certain companies to access additional information about a user’s Facebook friends”.

Companies like the Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor reportedly made such deals with Facebook. According to Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Vice President of Product Partnerships, the company allowed some firms to have “short-term extensions” to this user data.

“But other than that, things were shut down,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

Just a couple of days back Facebook made the headlines for the wrong reasons again after it admitted that 14 million users were affected by a bug in May that automatically suggested posting publicly when the users were writing posts meant only for friends. The bug made sure that the posts could be viewed by anyone, including people not logged on to Facebook. It was not yet known users in which country were affected the most.

The bug, according to Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, occurred as the Facebook developers were building a new way to share featured items on users’ profile, like a photo.

“The problem has been fixed, and for anyone affected, we changed the audience back to what they had been using before,” Egan said in a blog post late Thursday.

The revelation came after a New York Times report exposed how the social network allowed about 60 device makers, including Chinese smartphone players, to access personal information of users and their friends. Apple has denied it has made any requests to receive data.

Facebook admitted sharing users’ data with Chinese company Huawei — facing the heat in the US over data privacy concerns — along with three other China-based smartphone makers Lenovo, OPPO and TCL.

Facebook is facing intense scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users’ data after the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal became public.