Facebook’s shares fell 6 per cent today after an investigation revealed the company gave big tech companies far greater access to users’ personal data than it had previously admitted.
The social media giant let Microsoft’s Bing search engine see the names of virtually all users’ friends without their permission, according to reports.
The New York Times reported Facebook also gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read users’ private messages, allowing Amazon to get hold of users’ names and contact details via their friends.
The investigation cited internal records that describe data-sharing deals benefitting more than 150 companies.
Facebook responded today by denying it gave companies access to personal data of users without their permission.
Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's director of developer platforms and programs, said: “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.”
Meanwhile, a Netflix spokesperson said: “At no time did we access people's private messages on Facebook or ask for the ability to do so.”
Netflix did, however, launch a feature in 2014 enabling members to recommend TV shows and movies to Facebook friends, integrating Netflix and Facebook’s Messenger function.
The companies Facebook helped, dubbed “integration partners”, were supposedly only allowed access to help users access their Facebook accounts on platforms build by other companies like Apple, Amazon and Blackberry.
A spokesperson for Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, Facebook’s lead European regulator by virtue of Facebook’s European business being based in Dublin, said: “We are aware of the media reports and we are currently assessing what next steps, if any, are required.”
Separately, relating to another scandal surrounding Facebook, that of Cambridge Analytica, Washington DC’s attorney general said today the city had sued the company over allegedly misleading users about the protection of their personal data.
Facebook came under fire earlier this year after revealing a third-party personality quiz game hosted on the social network gathered information on 87m users and sold it to the British political consultant Cambridge Analytica.
Attorney general Karl Racine said the company had known about the incident for two years before revealing it, and that it had misled users.
Facebook said: “We're reviewing the complaint and look forward to continuing our discussions with attorneys general in DC and elsewhere.”