Facebook has revealed details of 52 companies with which it had data-sharing partnerships and deals. The details have been revealed thanks to Facebook’s 750-page document, which answered over 2000 questions that were raised during the Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearing. The document is addressed to US Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden, Ranking Member Frank Pallone and other members of the Committee. The document was handed over on June 29, 2018 and is now available online.
Facebook had these data-sharing partnerships with companies in order to help them build integrations or Facebook-like products for their devices. The New York Times had earlier revealed that Facebook gave deep data access to smartphone companies like Samsung, Apple, BlackBerry (when it was manufacturing phones), and Microsoft during the Lumia portfolio days.
Read more: What Facebook shared, with whom
Facebook later admitted to partnerships with companies like Oppo, Lenovo, and others as well, but said these were all tightly controlled and there was no misuse of data. It also said these partnerships were different from those with app developers. Now the full list of companies is out, which includes Airtel from India as well.
According to Facebook, 38 of these 52 partnerships have already been discontinued, including that with Airtel.
In a statement to indianexpress.com, Airtel said, “The matter pertains to the year 2010 when Airtel was granted access to data by Facebook as an App developer. The project ended in 2013 and so did the access to the data. We confirm that the data was used only for our internal purposes. We take data privacy extremely seriously and follow a zero tolerance policy on the same.”
Facebook also added that the company will shut down an additional seven partnerships by the end of July 2018, and another one by the end of October 2018. However, the partnership with Apple will continue beyond October 2018. Apple has denied that it ever received any data from Facebook. Previously Apple CEO Tim Cook had said that the company got zero data from Facebook.
Facebook will also continue partnerships with Mozilla, Alibaba and Opera, which will let users receive notifications from the social network in their web browsers. It claims these companies will not get access to data of users’ friends via these integrations. Prominent names on the list are Acer, Alibaba, Amazon, Alcatel/TCL, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Dell, Garmin, HP/Palm, HTC, Kodak, LG, MediaTek, Motorola/Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, T-Mobile, Sprint, Qualcomm, Vodafone, Yahoo, etc.
More importantly, Facebook’s document notes, “It is possible we have not been able to identify some integrations, particularly those made during the early days of our company when our records were not centralized. It is also possible that early records may have been deleted from our system.”
So there may be some partnerships regarding data sharing that Facebook has not mentioned in this list, because it does not have the records to begin with.
Indian music streaming app Saavn finds mention with regard to the use of third-party apps on the network. Facebook notes that some apps, including Saavn, were given an extension of six months beyond the original May 2015 compliance deadline when it first tightened the API rules for third-party app developers in 2014.
Saavn recently merged with Reliance Jio. Facebook’s document mentions Reliance/Saavn in the list of 60 apps, which were given the extension beyond the May 2015 deadline. We have reached out to Saavn for a statement.
Regarding this kind of data-sharing with apps, Facebook notes, “At that time (April 2014) we made clear that existing apps would have a year to transition— at which point they would be forced (1) to migrate to the more restricted API and (2) be subject to Facebook’s new review and approval protocols.”
Facebook in 2014 had revamped guidelines for apps and made it tougher for them to access data of a user’s friends without explicit permission from the user or their friend. In light of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which accessed the data in 2013 before the rules changed, Facebook has been forced to review how apps access user data.
The document also states that Facebook discovered “very small number of companies (fewer than 10)” which could in theory still access friends’ data because of the API access, despite the rules being changed in 2014. Facebook claims it has now removed all such access.