- Royal Bank of Canada, Fiat Chrysler and Nissan were among the companies that Facebook made customized data-sharing agreements with, giving them access to user data later than 2015, when the company said it cut off access to the information, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing court documents and sources familiar with the issue. The arrangements, referred to as “whitelists,” gave companies access to Facebook users’ friends, phone numbers and “friend link,” a tool that measured how close users are to others in their networks.
- Facebook granted Royal Bank of Canada a six-month extension, after the May 2015 deadline it gave developers to restrict third-party access to user data. The financial institution created an app that allowed users to send money to one another. Nuance Communications was also given a six-month extension for the newsfeed that it built for Fiat Chrysler. The additional access to user data was given in return for a signed nondisclosure.
- Officials from Facebook said the company had deals with several developers to improve user experience, test new features and let partners phase out data-sharing projects, according to the Journal. The deals lasted anywhere from weeks and months, but some lasted until this year. It’s unclear how many deals existed or when they all expired, the report said.
The latest revelation about Facebook's data sharing practices reflects how the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where 87 million Facebook users’ personal information was misused by a firm with ties to the Trump presidential campaign, continues to intensify for the social media network as privacy advocates, regulators and the media scrutinize its actions. Facebook appears to have extended the broader access to advertisers or companies that were valuable in other ways, and raises more questions about who truly has access to user data.
In this instance, big consumer brands are being shown to have had access to the data of users' friends — presumably for targeting and new customer acquisition efforts — at a time when others were cut off from such data. Deals made after 2012 could mean that Facebook may have violated its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, which required the company to give users clear notice and obtain consent before sharing user information outside what their privacy settings allow, according to sources cited in the Wall Street Journal report.
Facebook previously said it would pause its review process for third-party apps earlier this year as the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolded but later reopened that door.News of the “whitelists” follows a New York Times report detailing other data-sharing partnerships that Facebook had with device makers, including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung, which allowed the companies “deep access” to the data of users and their friends.
So far, Facebook seems to be holding up amid the controversy. While several brands have pulled their ads on the platform, ad sales in the most recent quarter grew. However, these numbers could start to slow down if usage declines. In a survey by securities firm Raymond James, 45% of users said they planned to cut back on their Facebook usage, citing concerns over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.