Marlene Awaad | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., listens during the Viva Technology conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
Facebook has admitted it allowed other big tech companies to read users’ private messages, but denies it did so without consent.
The response came in a blog post by the firm Wednesday after a New York Times investigation found that Facebook gave companies including Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages. The report on Tuesday also said it permitted Microsoft‘s Bing search engine to view the names of nearly all of a Facebook users’ friends without consent.
Facebook said it enabled partner companies like Spotify to access users’ private messages after a user had signed into Facebook through the partner company’s app.
Spokespeople for Spotify and Netflix told the Times they were unaware of the broad powers Facebook had granted them, while a Royal Bank of Canada spokesperson disputed the bank had such access.
A spokesperson for Netflix told CNBC the streaming service had launched a feature in 2014 that enabled members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix, but then shut it down in 2015. “At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so,” the Netflix spokesperson said. A Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC in a statement: “Throughout our engagement with Facebook, we respected all user preferences.”
Spotify and Royal Bank of Canada were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
The Times report, citing hundreds of internal documents and interviews with more than 50 former employees, also said Facebook allowed Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, while Yahoo was able to view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer. The report suggests Facebook’s sharing of personal data extended well beyond what the social media giant had previously disclosed.
In all, the Times report said Facebook’s data-sharing arrangements benefited more than 150 companies. The deals, in turn, helped Facebook bring in more users, it also said.
“To be clear: none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission),” Facebook said in the blog post.