Image: Sean Gallup (Getty)

Having rounded out the year with yet another bombshell report from the New York Times about Facebook’s mishandling of user data, the beleaguered social media company is now hitting back at claims that it allowed its partners to view Facebook users’ private messages.

Apparently on damage control duty in the wake of a report that has yet again called into question the company’s handling of user data, Facebook’s VP of Product Partnerships Ime Archibong wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that though the social media giant has “been accused of disclosing people’s private messages to partners without their knowledge,” that is “not true.”

People could message their friends about what they were listening to on Spotify or watching on Netflix, share folders on Dropbox, or get receipts from money transfers through the Royal Bank of Canada app. These experiences were publicly discussed. And they were clear to users and only available when people logged into these services with Facebook. However, they were experimental and have now been shut down for nearly three years.

... In order for you to write a message to a Facebook friend from within Spotify, for instance, we needed to give Spotify “write access.” For you to be able to read messages back, we needed Spotify to have “read access.” “Delete access” meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook.

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The response comes following the Times’ report that records show the company permitted Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada “to read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread—privileges that appeared to go beyond what the companies needed to integrate Facebook into their systems.”

Facebook now appears to be taking the line of defense that viewing users’ private messages was not a priority for companies... with access to user messages.

“No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission,” Archibong said. “Many news stories imply we were shipping over private messages to partners, which is not correct.”

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The blog by Archibong follows a separate limp response to the Times report shared on Facebook’s blog yesterday in which Director of Developer Platforms and Programs Konstantinos Papamiltiadis attempted to downplay brand partnerships by deflecting blame and writing that “people had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first to use a partner’s messaging feature.”

There are roughly two weeks left in 2018. Surely Facebook’s ongoing public relations nightmares can’t get any worse. Right?

[Facebook, New York Times]

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