Facebook let tech firms view users' private messages, data: report

Facebook granted major tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix access to users' personal data in ways not previously disclosed, according to interviews and internal documents reported by The New York Times.

The news outlet cited interviews and hundreds of documents from the social media platform that showed the company allowed Microsoft's Bing search engine to view the names of Facebook users' friends without consent, allowed Netflix and Spotify to read users' private messages and allowed Amazon to obtain users' names and contact information through their friends.

The agreements with Facebook applied to more than 150 companies, most of which are technology and online retail sites, the Times reported.


Each of the deals was in effect as recently as 2017, and some were active this year, according to the Times.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook's director of privacy and public policy, told The Hill in a statement that none of the arrangements violated users' privacy agreements, or a deal between Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission, which outlawed the social media platform from sharing user data without explicit consent.

"We know we've got work to do to regain people's trust," Satterfield said in a statement. "Protecting people's information requires stronger teams, better technology and clearer policies, and that's where we've been focused for most of 2018."

A Netflix spokesman said in a statement that the company did not access people's private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so.

The Times report comes as Facebook has grappled with controversy after controversy over the past two years for its handling of users' privacy and of misinformation campaigns aimed at disrupting the 2016 election.

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergAttorneys general plan to sue Facebook over antitrust violations next week: report Facebook-backed cryptocurrency Libra changes names Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff MORE vowed in the wake of a privacy breach involving British firm Cambridge Analytica that the company was "taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” 

The New York Times published a report last month that said the platform's leadership was slow to confront Russian efforts to exploit the platform for election meddling, and that it hired a public relations firm to accuse liberal financier George Soros of funding some of the groups that were speaking out against Facebook.

Updated Dec. 19 at 9:09 a.m.