Site navigation

Facebook Shared Users’ Private Messages with Third Parties

Ross Kelly


Companies were able to access Facebook users’ private messages, along with contact details and information on chat group participants. 

Facebook’s data-sharing practices have once again been called into question after it was revealed the social media firm shared user details with a host of companies.

The New York Times (NYT) reports that the social network allowed other technology companies to access users’ data, with Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Spotify and Netflix included in the list of firms granted special access.

Some companies were even unaware they were granted special access to user data, the NYT reported.

Detailed Access

Facebook has defended its data-sharing practices and claimed it never granted access to personal data without users’ consent. Additionally, the firm said it found no evidence that this data had been misused or abused.

In a statement, it acknowledged that it should have prevented third-parties from being able to access users’ data, though, following claims last month that it had ceased these practices.

The NYT provided a number of examples of how Facebook allowed access to user data. One, in particular, showed the social media firm gave other companies the ability to read users’ private messages, as well as access to contact details and friends’ activities on the platform.

Read more: Facebook “Whitelist” Granted Special Data Access to Firms

The full details of the NYT investigation have not yet been disclosed, but currently, it shows a plethora of companies from a range of backgrounds being granted access to user data.

The social network appears to have had special arrangements with more than 150 companies to share its members’ personal data, the investigation found. The majority of these, it found, were technology firms based in the United States.

However, other firms included car-makers, media organisations and even the NYT itself.

Additional findings of the NYT investigation include:

  • Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the investigation found, was able to access the names of “virtually all” Facebook users’ friends without consent being granted. This was aimed at personalising the results shown by the search engine.
  • Apple devices could also access the contact numbers, as well as calendar entries, of users regardless of whether they had disabled share settings. These devices were also not required to alert users if they were requesting data from the social media company.
  • Netflix and Spotify were also granted special data access. Both these organisations were able to read, write and delete users’ private messages, the report found. It also granted access to view the participants of a specific chat group.

Repeated Controversy

Facebook’s former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, called on the company to disclose further information on what special access was provided to third-parties.

Damian Collins MP also criticised its data privacy policies, stating: “We have to seriously challenge the claim by Facebook that they are not selling user data.

“They may not be letting people take it away by the bucket load, but they do reward companies with access to data that others are denied if they place a high value on the business they do together. This is just another form of selling.”

digital transformation 2019 banner

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

Latest News

Data Protection Editor's Picks
Climate Trending Articles
Data Protection Editor's Picks Trending Articles
%d bloggers like this: