A new report from The New York Times has now highlighted claims of Facebook sharing its users' data with at least 60 smartphone OEMs over the past ten years including BlackBerry, Apple, and Samsung.
According to The New York Times —
Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, "like" buttons and address books.
For some folks, this report might not be all that surprising considering it has been well known that Facebook had deals in place to preload Facebook services on devices over the years but as of this past April, have started winding down those relationships. As part of their response to the report, Facebook Vice President Ime Archibong, noted "these partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform" and were not akin to that data abuse that was found from Cambridge Analytica.
Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go. These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences. Partners could not integrate the user's Facebook features with their devices without the user's permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built. Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends' information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends. We are not aware of any abuse by these companies.
The one highlight here for BlackBerry users is the noted usage of a BlackBerry 10 device that was tested by The New York Times, which found the BlackBerry Hub pulling in more than 50 types of information.
Immediately after the reporter connected the device to his Facebook account, it requested some of his profile data, including user ID, name, picture, "about" information, location, email and cellphone number. The device then retrieved the reporter's private messages and the responses to them, along with the name and user ID of each person with whom he was communicating.
For their part, BlackBerry spokesman Usher Lieberman told The New York Times BlackBerry used Facebook data only to give its own customers access to their Facebook networks and messages and did not collect or mine the Facebook data as BlackBerry has always been in the business of protecting, not monetizing, customer data. A response that is really par for the course for BlackBerry and as noted, the data was not used in the same manner as Cambridge Analytica.
In the end, personally, I don't find much of this surprising at all. I thought it was fairly common knowledge that BlackBerry had some special access to the Facebook API, especially with the way BBOS devices handled Facebook and how Facebook for BlackBerry 10 integrated with contacts and such through the Hub.
The most surprising thing here for me is the Times noting it was still, presumably, pulling in that data without the Facebook for BlackBerry 10 app considering that's dead now. Let me know how you feel about it all in the comments or swing by the CrackBerry Forums for more discussion.