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Another Day, Another Scandal: Facebook Secretly Gave Companies 'Special Access' to User Data Without Consent, Report Alleges

"Disclosure of the deals punctures a hole in the picture Facebook has tried to paint as a suddenly user-friendly, privacy-minded company after 2014—not that anyone was buying that image anyway."

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, attends the Viva Tech start-up and technology gathering at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Less than a week after the New York Times revealed in an explosive report that Facebook formed agreements with a number of major device-makers that gave them vast access to users' personal data without their consent, yet another report—this time by the Wall Street Journal—alleged on Friday that the social media giant gave a select list of companies "special access" to user data after it claimed to have "walled off" such information.

Internally called "whitelists," these secretive deals "allowed certain companies to access additional information about a user's Facebook friends," the Journal reported, citing court documents and anonymous Facebook officials. "That included information like phone numbers and a metric called 'friend link' that measured the degree of closeness between users and others in their network."

The Journal continued:

The whitelist deals were struck with companies including Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor Co. , who advertised on Facebook or were valuable for other reasons, according to some of the people familiar with the matter. They show that Facebook gave special data access to a broader universe of companies than was previously disclosed. They also raise further questions about who has access to the data of billions of Facebook users and why they had access, at a time when Congress is demanding the company be held accountable for the flow of that data.

The secret access Facebook granted to this limited group of companies came after the tech giant claimed in 2015 that it had stopped granting access to such a broad range of user data.

But, as Gizmodo's AJ Dellinger noted on Friday, "Access is never truly cut off if you have some money to throw around."

As Common Dreams reported on Monday, the report showing that Facebook cut deals with device-makers appeared to show that CEO Mark Zuckerberg flat-out lied to Congress when he asserted that users of the platform have "complete control" of who can and can't see their personal data.

The Journal's report appears to add to Facebook's ever-growing list of lies, deceptions, and extreme violations of privacy, Dellinger concluded.

"Disclosure of the deals punctures a hole in the picture Facebook has tried to paint as a suddenly user-friendly, privacy-minded company after 2014—not that anyone was buying that image anyway," Dellinger wrote.

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