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'Sure Looks Like Zuckerberg Lied' to Congress About User Privacy, As New Facebook Data-Sharing Deals Come to Light

The tech giant has allowed cell phone and device makers access to Facebook users' and their friends' data, without explicit consent

Facebook struck data-sharing deals with the makers of cell phones and other devices, and continued those relationships even after prohibiting tech developers from accessing users' friends' data. (Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images)

At least one member of Congress regarded new information about Facebook's data-sharing partnerships with tech companies as evidence that the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lied to lawmakers in April about the control users have over their information on the social media platform.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Facebook formed deals with at least 60 makers of cell phones and other devices allowing them access to users' personal information and that of their Facebook friends, without explicit consent.

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung were among the companies Facebook reached agreements with, allowing the companies to access users' relationship status, religion, political views, and upcoming events they attend.

The deals may have breached Facebook's compliance with a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordering the company to keep users' information private.

The companies' access remained in tact even after Facebook realized in 2015 that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had exploited its access to tens of millions of users' personal information.

Facebook has faced intense scrutiny in recent months over the Trump-linked firm's profiling of U.S. voters in order to target them with personalized political ads, using personal information it obtained from Facebook.

Facebook prohibited tech developers from accessing the data of users' friends after discovering the Cambridge Analytica breach in 2015, but the makers of cell phones and other devices were not subject to the restriction.

"It's like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission," Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant, told the Times of the new revelations.

The Cambridge Analytica controversy led lawmakers to demand that Zuckerberg testify before two Congressional committees in April, during which he claimed, "Every piece of content that you share on Facebook you own. You have complete control over who sees it and how you share it."

Sandy Parakalis, a former advertising and privacy official at Facebook who left the company in 2012 and has raised concerns over its use of users' data, posted on twitter about Zuckerberg's earlier statements and urged lawmakers to hold the CEO accountable for the newly uncovered privacy breach.

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