Report: Facebook Gave Apple Devices Hidden Access to User Data

Facebook has had a rough year and things only seem to be getting worse for the company. A New York Times report claims that Facebook provided tech giants like Amazon, Netflix, and others with full access to user data including their private messages. The report even claims that Facebook provided Apple with hidden and unrestricted access to user data like contacts and calendar.

The amount of user data that Facebook shared with Spotify, Netflix, and Royal Bank of Canada went over and above what its integration with their services allowed. Spotify, for example, could view the personal messages of more than 70 million users every month.

Surprisingly, Spotify and Netflix spokesperson claim that they were not aware of the broad powers given to them by Facebook. While Spotify still has access to private messages of millions of users, Netflix and Canadian Bank no longer have access to messages since they have removed features that relied on it. Even Yahoo and The Times could access private user information up until 2017.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine was also provided special access to user data which allowed it to view all friends of a Facebook user without their consent.

As for Apple, the report says that Facebook hid all kind of indications that Apple’s devices were asking for data. The company devices could access a user’s calendar, contacts, and more without the user ever knowing about it. Apple on its part says that it was not aware of Facebook providing its devices with such special privileges.

Facebook empowered Apple to hide from Facebook users all indicators that its devices were asking for data. Apple devices also had access to the contact numbers and calendar entries of people who had changed their account settings to disable all sharing, the records show.

Our Take

If true, this is a serious allegation that is being leveled against Apple. Given how seriously Apple values the privacy of its users, I doubt the company would resort to such measures especially in partnership with Facebook which is infamous for the way it handles user data.

Facebook says that it had made such data sharing tactics clear in its privacy policy right since 2010. But that’s a meek argument since its privacy policy does not explicitly make this clear and it is poorly worded as well. As to why Facebook did all this? To gain users as quickly as possible. While the short-sighted tactics might have worked in the past, it is going to cause irreparable damage to the social networking giant’s image.

[Via NY Times]