Time and again, Facebook has been accused of breaching user privacy by sharing sensitive data without user consent. But as a step on the positive side, Facebook has, following its settlement meeting with the US Federal Trade Commission, decided to stop allowing companies like Microsoft and Sony from accessing its user data.
A report by The New York Times, published last December, leveled allegations of allowing over 150 large enterprises to access private data without users’ consent were leveled against Facebook. Reports and interviews published since then show that the breach is more widespread than Facebook had hitherto allowed being disclosed.
These reports have revealed that Facebook had allowed Microsoft search engine, Bing, to access user friend lists without user consent. It had given online music and video streaming apps like Spotify and Netflix access to private user messages. Facebook had also allowed online shopping platform, Amazon, access to users’ friends’ accounts to learn about their name and contact information; and provided Yahoo access to timeline posts by friends.
While Facebook had promised one too many times to make its user data more secure, as of 2017, Microsoft and Amazon are still using Facebook friend lists to access user names and email ids.
Following the settlement meeting with US FTC, Facebook has made a statement revealing its intention to rectify past mistakes and has added that it shall no longer provide access to user data to companies like Microsoft or Sony. Facebook said, “This is our mistake, we are correcting it.”
As per the terms of the settlement, Facebook has to pay a record sum of $5 million as fine to the FTC for years of invasion of user privacy. It will also have to set up a committee to overlook any oversight in user privacy. Facebook has also been tasked with imposing stricter restrictions on third-party applications, periodically scanning unencrypted information like passwords, avoid using phone numbers obtained for security purposes, and review new products; besides submitting new privacy certification and evaluation reports.
Regarding the settlement, Facebook has said that it will affect, “a fundamental shift in our way of working.”