Mark Zuckerberg has spent the past few years pinky swearing that Facebook wouldn’t do exactly what The New York Times discovered that Facebook has been doing: sharing data about users and their friends with third-party device makers without users’ knowledge.
But the Times reported on Monday that a partnership agreement Facebook struck with mobile device makers like Apple, Samsung, and BlackBerry allowed them to access private data about Facebook users’ friends. In one experiment carried out by the paper, a Blackberry device was able to pull information about 295,000 people tangentially connected to a Times reporter’s on the social media app.
The revelation runs counter to the promises that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given Facebook customers for years—that Facebook users have complete transparency and control over who sees their data.
“With each new tool, we’ve added new privacy controls to ensure that you continue to have complete control over who sees everything you share,” the tech CEO wrote in 2011 after a the federal government rapped the company for privacy violations.
It also flies in the face of assurances Zuckerberg gave after the revelation that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had abused Facebook’s terms of service to scrape personal data on tens of millions of Facebook users in order to target political messaging campaigns.
“And that’s why in 2014, we took the step of changing the platform. So now, when people sign in to an app, you do not bring some of your friends’ information with you. You’re only bringing your own information and you’re able to connect with friends who have also authorized that app directly.” Zuckerberg told senators in April.
The statement left out the fact that Facebook had struck a partnership with dozens of device makers to give them access to similar information on a Facebook users’ friends—just as reporters and policymakers were pressing the company to disclose whether any other data sharing agreements could create the conditions for a similar breach.