A new report has surfaced revealing some troubling details regarding the data sharing practices of Facebook. The social media giant reportedly gave access of our data to more than 150 companies including the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix.
This means that all these companies had access to “hundreds of millions” of Facebook users each month. The oldest of data sharing deals started in 2010 and went on till 2017. Some of the deals were still active this year even after the eventful year that the company had.
The problematic part about all these deals is the fact that neither Facebook nor the companies getting the data explicitly asked the users for the permission. According to a report by the New York Times, Facebook gave access to contacts and calendar entries of its users to Apple and the deal still exists. Apple has since gone on to refute that it had special access to any Facebook data.
Other examples of the deals include giving access to names and contact details of its users to Amazon. Moving to the deal with Microsoft, Facebook gave Microsoft Bing, access to “names and other profile information” of the friends of Facebook users. The report added that Microsoft had deleted the data since, and Facebook claimed that it only gave access to the information that was already set as “public” by Facebook users. Though, one of the most disturbing examples here is the fact that Facebook gave access to private messages to the likes of Spotify and Netflix.
Types of data sharing deals
The report classified the deals into three categories with the first being integrations where Facebook would make a custom app for smartphone makers such as BlackBerry. The second is known as partnerships that included its data sharing deal with Bing as part of a past program known as “instant personalization”. This program was launched back in 2010, and Facebook enrolled all its users in the program by default. This means there were no options or choice though it was killed back in 2014.
The third type of deals is known as “one-off” deals which include the examples of Netflix and Spotify where these companies were given access to both read as well as write messages. This was used to enable functionality where Spotify was able to hook to the Facebook chat window of the users, and then send songs to their friends. What is surprising is the fact that Facebook “acknowledged” the report, and added that “it had more work to do to regain user trust”.
Should we Zimbabweans (or African countries) care about this
First off, these tech companies have our data, they know the basic and most important information (contacts, credit card information, location etc.) about us on top of our behavior and preferences. For now, these kinds of stories that say; Facebook (or any other company) had a security breach or has shared our data, don’t seem like they matter to Zimbabweans (or Africa countries) because we don’t yet know the importance of our data and our countries or companies are note yet data-driven.
Our ignorance for our data on platforms like Facebook stems from the fact that many Zimbabweans are still using these platforms to communicate only and not share critical information like banking details (for e-commerce). But in the Western world, they do, and that’s why they treat their data as good as another part of them (virtual selves).
But as the world increasingly becomes a global village, interconnected and more tech-depended (doing e-commerce or using apps for sickness diagnosis etc.), the importance of data among Zimbabweans will eventually grow. By then we won’t ignore these kinds of shady deals Facebook is entering using our ‘virtual selves’.