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Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access To Data on Users and Friends

Facebook allowed phone makers to access users' data: Report

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Facebook unveils new VR headset 'Oculus Quest'. Pixabay
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Raising fresh concerns about Facebook’s privacy protection policies, a New York Times report has exposed how the social network allowed about 60 device makers, including Apple and Samsung, to access personal information of users and their friends.

Even before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, Facebook had data-sharing partnerships with the device makers, the report said citing company officials, adding that most of the deals remain in effect.

While the device partnerships allowed Facebook to expand its reach, it let the phone makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books.

The deals raise concerns about the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), The Times said.

Facebook, which is already under scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users’ data after the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal became public, reportedly allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

While Facebook’s leaders said that the kind of access exploited by the political consulting firm in 2014 was cut off by the next year as it prohibited developers from collecting information from users’ friends.

But the company officials did not disclose that such restrictions were not applicable to makers of cellphones, tablets and other hardware, the report said.

However, Facebook officials denied the device partnerships violated its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users.

Also Read: Hillary Clinton Wishes to Head the Facebook

They said its partnerships were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners’ servers, adding that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused.

“These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform,” Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president was quoted as saying. (IANS)

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Facebook Dismisses Report of Journalists’ Frustration With Fact-Checking

The report quoted another factchecker as saying that he was demoralised

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A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook has dismissed a media report that claimed journalists working as factcheckers for the social media giant are frustrated and are ending partnerships as the company failed to use their expertise to combat misinformation.

A report in The Guardian on Thursday said outside reporters have lost trust in Facebook, “which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work”.

Reacting to the report, Meredith Carden, Head of News Integrity Partnerships at Facebook, said the Guardian story presents several inaccuracies.

“Contrary to a claim in the story, we absolutely do not ask fact-checkers to prioritise debunking content about our advertisers,” Carden said in statement.

The report, she added, is based primarily on the account of a single fact-checker who has not been involved with the Facebook fact-checking program for six months.

“We have been committed to fighting misinformation for years now and have strong relationships with our third-party fact-checking partners — we now have 35 partners in 24 countries around the world,” said Facebook.

The report quoted Brooke Binkowski, former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that has partnered with Facebook for two years, as saying that the social network is using journalists for handling crisis PR.

“They’re not taking anything seriously. They are more interested in making themselves look good and passing the buck… They clearly don’t care,” said Binkowski, who now runs her own fact-checking site which does not partner with Facebook.

According to Facebook, it values the ongoing partnerships and the work that these journalists do.

The third-party fact checking programme was launched in 2016 after the US Presidential election.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“We’re planning to expand the programme to even more countries in 2019,” said Carden.

According to Facebook, three separate researches have found that the overall volume of false news on Facebook is decreasing since it put up third-party fact-checking programme and other anti-misinformation measures in place.

However, The Guardian report said the company has ignored journalists’ concerns.

Some newsroom leaders said “they had grown increasingly resentful of Facebook, especially following revelations that the company had paid a consulting firm to go after opponents by publicising their association with billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros”.

A New York Times investigation in November suggested that the social network hired a Republican-owned political consulting and PR firm that “dug up dirt on its competitors” including Soros.

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Reacting to the report, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg denied they had any prior knowledge about this firm.

“It was later revealed that Sheryl Sandberg had directed her staff to research Soros’s financial interests after he publicly criticised the company,” the Guardian report said.

The report quoted another factchecker as saying that he was demoralised.

“They are a terrible company and, on a personal level, I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” said the anonymous factchecker. (IANS)