A report from New York Times details that Facebook may have violated a 2011 FTC consent and shared its user data with Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, and other companies. The partnership was formed by Facebook so as to allow OEMs to offer messaging, Like button, and other features in their system app.
While Facebook had tight control over the APIs, it ended up providing these OEM apps with a lot of data including the events they were interested in, data of their friends, their political leanings, and more. Facebook had such a partnership with over 60 device makers.
“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 F.T.C.’s chief technologist.
Facebook on its part has already released an explanation saying it had created the APIs Apple, Amazon, Samsung, and other OEMs when there was no App Store around. Its primary focus was to offer a similar Facebook experience across all devices irrespective of its OEM.
All these partnerships were built on a common interest — the desire for people to be able to use Facebook whatever their device or operating system,” VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said.
Facebook says that its partners had signed agreements to ensure that the data and APIs were only used by them to offer a Facebook-like experience. They could not integrate any of the Facebook features into their devices without explicit user permission. Additionally, the social media giant’s engineering and partnership team always checked and then approved the Facebook experience built by OEMs on their devices.
Facebook says since its iOS and Android apps are popular, the usage of these APIs has gone down significantly which is why it announced in April that it was going to shut them down.