Airtel is among 52 authorised companies and Saavn is among 61 apps that were exempted from Facebook’s 2015 ban of accessing user data
The ongoing saga of Facebook’s data-sharing with third parties has been given a new twist now. The social media giant has stated in a new report to US Congress that Indian music-streaming app Saavn and telecom firm Bharti Airtel were among many companies who had been temporarily exempted from Facebook after it discontinued its services to offer access to user data in 2015 and instead resumed to get special access.
Exemption came as part of ‘integration partnerships’
By offering access to user data, Facebook gave permission to third-parties to access the friends of the user who had signed up with latter. This caused a massive outbreak of criticisms among Facebook’s users and soon after the same, the social media giant announced that they would impose a block on apps effective May 2015.
However, a total of 52 companies who shared an integrated partnership with Facebook continued to get access to user data because the partnership with app developers and software makers was aimed at integrating Facebook and its features onto the devices and products of those companies. This was meant to expand the user base and reach of Facebook. Microsoft, Blackberry and Samsung were also among these 52 firms who had the authority to access user data beyond May 2015.
But Airtel has declined the report by Facebook and has stated that its access to user data ended on 2013.
On the other hand, Saavn was among 61 other apps that were offered exemption on the grounds of offering compliance with restricted application programming interface (API) access, after it imposed restrictions due to the alleged misuse of data by data scientist Aleksander Kogan. Soon after this, Reliance Industries bought a stake in the music-streaming app by merging the same with JioMusic in March.
Accessing user data requires the consent of the app, says Facebook report
In the earlier part of 2018, Kogan was accused of slipping information about 50 million users’ physiological profiles to voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica. This gave Kogan the blame of breaching Facebook’s data policies and sharing data from his personality prediction app – thisisyourdigitallife. The app is alleged to have not only accessed data of participants but also of everyone in their friends’ lists and is suspected to have been used to influence US elections. After this, every app launched after April 30, 2014, were required to follow stricter and restrictive platform APIs.
Following this, members of the US Senate and Communities had sent more than 2000 questions to Facebook, all of which, had to be addressed by the social media giant’s frontman Mark Zuckerberg in April 2018.
Now, in this new 747-page report, Facebook has revealed the names of these 52 companies and 61 apps who were exempted from the block on accessing user data.
“Such access to information about an app user’s friends required not only the consent of the app users, but also required that the friends whose data would be accessed have their own privacy settings set to permit such access by third-party apps,” the report said.
Facebook is further investigating the matter and every company and app that still has access to chunks of information about its users before the social networking site changed their rules in 2014. Till now, thousands of apps have been investigated and depending on the evidence found by Facebook, it has banned 200 apps. The number is most likely to increase as the evidence-finding process continues. “If we identify misuses of data, we’ll take immediate action, including banning the app from our platform and pursuing legal action if appropriate,” Facebook has stated to US Congress.