Facebook was hit with a maelstrom of controversy this year, and it doesn't look like things are about to get better for the social network. A new report by The New York Times states that Facebook provided the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify unrestricted access to users' data.
The publication says it interviewed over 60 people, including "former employees of Facebook and its partners, former government officials and privacy advocates" and reviewed over 270 pages of internal Facebook documents.
Facebook has shown time and again that it cannot safeguard user data.
The social network gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read users' private messages, and allowed Amazon to access user names and contact information through their friends. For their part, Netflix and Spotify have clarified that they were unaware of the special access. Facebook also allowed Microsoft's search engine Bing to see the names of "virtually all Facebook users' friends" without their consent, and let Yahoo access "streams of friends' posts as recently as this summer."
The NYT investigation has found that Facebook inked deals to share data with over 150 companies, including automakers, online retailers, media organizations, and entertainment sites. And while Facebook denied sharing data anymore, the publication found that some of these deals were still active. Facebook even admitted that it "mismanaged" a few partnerships, stating it continued to offer companies access to user data even after they deprecated the features that needed the data.
Update: Netflix has since responded and given an official statement on the matter
Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social. One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people's private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.
In short, Facebook gave tech giants free reign over the massive trove of user data in a bid to amass users. The never-ending stream of privacy scandals suggest Facebook just doesn't have the processes in place to secure its users' data, and while Mark Zuckerberg provides reassurances that the social network is trying to better safeguard users, it looks like that's an empty gesture.
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