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Facebook gave device makers access to data on users and friends: Report

(News Desk) – Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, struck agreements that allowed phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information, according a report.

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and BlackBerry — many of which are still in effect, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing company officials.

As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, the deals allowed the company to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.

The Times said that Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders, the newspaper said.

“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.”

“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Facebook on Sunday rejected claims by the Times, saying any such links were tightly controlled and largely subject to users’ consent.

“Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends,” said Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships.

Facebook has been fighting a growing scandal after it failed to protect the data of some 87 million users that was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct London-based political consulting firm.

The data scandal was first reported in March by The New York Times and The Observer, a British weekly newspaper.

In a tense appearance before Congress in April, Facebook co-founder and leader Mark Zuckerberg, refused to make any promises to support new legislation or change how the social network does business.

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