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REPORT: Facebook Allowed Companies to Read, Write, and Delete User Private Messages

REPORT: Facebook Allowed Companies to Read, Write, and Delete User Private Messages

So-called “integration partners” were given access to private user data without user knowledge

Out of the frying pan and into the fire for social media giant Facebook.

A report published by The New York Times details Facebook’s relationships with large corporations and the extent to which they provided access to user data.

One of the more startling revelations in that report — Facebook granted some corporations the ability to read, write, and delete user private messages.

Facebook also allowed Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread — privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems, the records show. Facebook acknowledged that it did not consider any of those three companies to be service providers. Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix said those companies were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them. A Royal Bank of Canada spokesman disputed that the bank had any such access.

Spotify, which could view messages of more than 70 million users a month, still offers the option to share music through Facebook Messenger. But Netflix and the Canadian bank no longer needed access to messages because they had deactivated features that incorporated it.

These were not the only companies that had special access longer than they needed it. Yahoo, The Times and others could still get Facebook users’ personal information in 2017.

Yahoo could view real-time feeds of friends’ posts for a feature that the company had ended in 2011. A Yahoo spokesman declined to discuss the partnership in detail but said the company did not use the information for advertising. The Times — one of nine media companies named in the documents — had access to users’ friend lists for an article-sharing application it also had discontinued in 2011. A spokeswoman for the news organization said it was not obtaining any data.

Facebook’s internal records also revealed more about the extent of sharing deals with over 60 makers of smartphones, tablets and other devices, agreements first reported by The Times in June.

Apple is also implicated in the report:

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.

Apple officials said they were not aware that Facebook had granted its devices any special access. They added that any shared data remained on the devices and was not available to anyone other than the users.

Facebook entered full crisis PR mode after the 2016 election when federal investigators found Russian entities were using the platform in an attempt to sew discord and strife among the American public. Now, it appears as though Facebook’s relationship with Russian entities (though they may be different in scope and connection from those who attempted election meddling) is significantly cozier than they have ever publicly let on:

The Times report is lengthy, but well worth the read.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year (wherein the data firm Cambridge Analytica was privy to the data of some 50 million Facebook users because those users gave them express consent through a third-party app. The information they mined was only a fraction of the data available to Facebook) I blogged about social media privacy concerns, a post that’s again relevant.


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Wow, anybody who is still using Facebook or Twitter is really just a masochist.

If 1/4 of the conservative users of these systems would just quit using them and delete their accounts they would flame out and die… they’re both beholden to Wall Street which means they MUST have constant revenue growth. Sudden contraction in user counts would result in a stock price free-fall and rapid spiraling down the drain. Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

Bucky Barkingham | December 19, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Zuck knows who has the deep pockets.

To give you and idea where my mind is right now on “the internet of things”, my cell phone (3G non-smart) just died on me. And since all replacements I have found won’t be supported by Verizon, AT&T etal, once the 5G rollout occurs in 2019, I will be abandoning cell phones completely. I simply cannot justify paying over $1k for a new phone and over $100/mo I only use for voice communications. And they give away my personal info to various major interests who will do me harm?

I am not a luddite. I am up to speed on everything else technological. But I am not stupid. Give me back my basic cell phone!

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Pasadena Phil. | December 19, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    I’m sure you already know the Feds can track with those.

    As someone here said a while back, if you asked Americans to wear a ankle tracking device, they would refuse.

    But give them cell phones……..

      I would be worried about it except that I don’t use that phone much. I have communication capability on my laptop. I hardly travel so I really don’t need anything more than basic voice service. I could do without out it.

      Most of the calls I get on my cell are from what seems to be the Chinese embassy in Sacramento. I have no idea what they are selling but I usually get 2 to 5 calls a day from them.

    rinardman in reply to Pasadena Phil. | December 19, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    I am not a luddite. I am up to speed on everything else technological. But I am not stupid. Give me back my basic cell phone!

    Sounds like me. I don’t need a smartphone, so I have a prepaid basic flip phone (Tracfone, but not an endorsement) that costs me about $8/month. And when they went to 3G service, they even sent me a new free phone, because my old 2G phone would no longer work after the changeover to 3G. You’d have to check, but I think you could even keep your old phone number, if you wanted to. Just a suggestion.

    Xfinity has the pay by the gig phone. It is “smart”- but I choose to just not use it and keep it largely shut off and for use in case of emergencies.

    The good thing about this plan- is the bill has ranged from 0 (if shut off the entire month) to 2.75 which covers 911 access.

      Paul in reply to Andy. | December 19, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      You don’t need an active cellular account, or even a SIM card inserted in the phone, to make 911 calls. By FCC regulation EVERY cell phone must be able to make 911 calls. Any old beater with a charged battery will work.

    MajorWood in reply to Pasadena Phil. | December 19, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I’m doing well with a $120 (5.5″) Samsung 4G from Best Buy and with an absolute minimal data package at $23/mo from Simple Mobile, not much more than the $15/mo I paid for the basic 3G limited minutes I was buying from Net10. I was just about to but a new Tablet anyway, and the phone doubles well with about 400 TV episodes, 200 music vids, and 1000 songs on the 128GB microSD. That being said, I have about 10 numbers programmed into it. It is more that I can make calls from my TV than I can play videos on my phone.

It’s more than obvious these social media conglomerates are not ‘platforms’ for open forum discussions. They are publishers deciding content, and should be regulated as such, and held liable for any wrong doing in their published pages.

If not, then this, too, is a scam run by gutless congress critters who merely lie to us for votes. But after the election it’s FU voters, business as usual.

Facebook is completely untrustworthy. They will do anything for money, including selling out their users. Not to mention silencing and hiding points of view they disagree with (except for the Russians and other hyper-politicized liberal organizations, of course). Why does anyone continue to use this platform?

    I seem to remember when Facebook went public, analysts were wondering how they were going to monetize their business to justify it. Now, of course, we know. They sell us (well, not me, I don’t use it).

When I first met Mark, we were at some boring corporate party. Tired of stupid chit-chat and expensive drinks, I pitched an idea to Mark: Each of us would come up with the most fun activity we could imagine, and surprise the other with it.

I drove to a nearby lake, ordered two water powered jetpacks, two paintball guns, and arranged to fly Journey in. I figured that nothing could be more awesome than an airborne paintball duel with “Don’t Stop Believing” playing in the background.

When I came back to see Mark’s activity, I found him in a back alley next to a terrified waiter from the party, couldn’t have been older than 25. In exchange for paying his student loans, Mark excitedly told me, the man would let us beat him until he stopped moving.

thalesofmiletus | December 19, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Let us know when they face some real consequence.

You can say that I’m bat shit crazy to still be on facebook, but then again, my handle is Batt Guano.

This was as far down as I could pare my profile, back when they absolutely did not allow you to leave.

Am I the only guy who looks into Zuck’s eyes and sees a BAD person?