The government of India has sought an explanation from Facebook over reports of the latter’s data sharing partnerships with phone makers. According to a report on the Economic Times the social media company has been given time till June 20 to respond to the notice issued by the government. This is the third notice sent to Facebook from the government since the Cambridge Analytica data breach story came to light.
In a statement, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) said that recently there have been media reports claiming that Facebook has agreements which are allowing phone and other device manufacturers’ access to its users’ personal information. This included data of users’ friends, without explicit consent. “The Government of India is deeply concerned about reports of such lapses/violations,” the ministry said in a statement to the press. Facebook had reportedly apologised to the government and had assured them that they would take sincere efforts to protect the privacy of users’ data on the platform. The ministry’s statement added, “However, such reports raise uncomfortable questions about the assurances made by Facebook. Therefore, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has sought an explanation from Facebook seeking a detailed factual report on the issue.”
Facebook shared data with 60 device makers
A New York Times report published earlier this week unveiled that Facebook had data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 hardware manufacturers including Apple.
It’s not clear yet whether any of the partners abused the data or transferred it to unauthorized parties. Still, the disclosure adds fuel to public distrust of the social network, whose main app has more than 2 billion users worldwide. The company also owns other popular programs like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. If users weren’t aware of device makers’ access, the deals could violate a 2011 US Federal Trade Commission consent decree.
According to the NYT report, Facebook had shared user data from the platform with Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung among several others — during the last decade. Through the partnerships, the social media company allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent. Since then, Apple CEO Tim Cook has clarified that Apple neither requested any personal data from the social platform nor did it receive any. Facebook also contested the findings of the NYT article in a blog post.
It is still unclear yet whether any of the device makers abused or transferred the data to unauthorised parties. But the disclosure could not have come at a worse time for Facebook, as the company is making an effort to move on from the Cambridge Analytica disaster.