Facebook granted custom access to user data to selected companies


Even after 2015, when Facebook said it had walled off user records from third parties, inside sources and court documents showed that the company went on maintaining a whitelist of companies that were allowed customised access to information about users' Friends, phone numbers, and a "friend link" metric that measured the degrees of separation. Whitelisted companies included Nissan and Royal Bank of Canada, and others that either advertised on the network or were valuable to Facebook for other reasons. The company also separately maintained data sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers and a "small number" of partners to whom it also continued to provide access. Data sharing deals created after 2012 may violate the terms of Facebook's settlement agreement with the FTC. 

Among the special deals a 2012 agreement with Apple gave iPhone users the exclusive ability to synchronise contacts with their Facebook Friends list and import their phone numbers. In 2012, when Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook before its IPO, it was granted a device deal that let it feed the data it collected into Bing so users could search their Friends' Facebook posts, a feature unavailable to others. Another, Nuance Communications, was granted a six-month extension on accessing user data after 2015 for a news feed it had custom-built for its client, Fiat Chrysler. One company, Six4Three, sued Facebook in 2015 alleging that Facebook's data policies were selective and anti-competitive. 


writer: Deepa Seetharaman and Kirsten Grind
publication: Wall Street Journal

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