Facebook and Microsoft respond to NYT report on data sharing

December 19, 2018

After today’s publication of an article in the New York Times detailing an investigation that uncovered more than 270 pages of Facebook’s internal documents and involved interviews with more than 60 people, Facebook and Microsoft are sharing their points-of-view about how they were portrayed.

The New York Times report, which appeared in Dealbook in the business section, alleged that:

  • The breadth of the data-sharing was vast (and involved Facebook partners like Microsoft, Spotify and Netflix).
  • Users often didn’t know.
  • Even Facebook had trouble keeping track.

Facebook defended itself in a blog post authored by Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, its Director of Developer Platforms and Programs, writing “To put it simply, this work was about helping people do two things. First, people could access their Facebook accounts or specific Facebook features on devices and platforms built by other companies like Apple, Amazon, Blackberry and Yahoo. These are known as integration partners.

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Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s Director of Developer Platforms and Programs, penned the explanation (Photo via his Facebook profile)

“Second,” the post continued, “people could have more social experiences – like seeing recommendations from their Facebook friends – on other popular apps and websites, like Netflix, The New York Times, Pandora and Spotify.

“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.”

Regarding Microsoft’s involvement, a spokesperson said, “Throughout our engagement with Facebook, we respected all user preferences.”

Microsoft also said that Bing did not maintain profiles based on Facebook data for advertising or personalization purposes and took significant engineering steps — beyond what Facebook required — to ensure this could not happen. The company ended its contract with Facebook in February 2016 and data stopped appearing in search results.

Why you should care. Facebook started working closely with partners nearly a decade ago. At first, the benefits of integration were considered a boon to users. In recent years, however, Facebook has experienced multiple privacy gaffes that have caused some notable departures from the social network, including prominent tech journalist Walt Mossberg. Nonetheless, the NYT report on Facebook’s data deals won’t sway advertisers, say media buyers, at least in the short run

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