It's hardly a secret that Facebook has historically shared user data with other companies which it was partnered with, but now the scope of these deals is a bit more clear thanks to a 747-page document the company released in response to over 1,200 questions asked by the US House Energy & Commerce Committee.
Facebook has shared user information with 52 separate firms, including Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo. It has ended partnerships with 38 companies (some of which, like HP/Palm, have gone out of business) and more are due to expire in July and October of this year.
We engaged companies to build integrations for a variety of devices, operating systems and other products where we and our partners wanted to offer people a way to receive Facebook or Facebook experiences," the company said in the document. "These integrations were built by our partners, for our users, but approved by Facebook." Such integrations include Facebook-branded apps, social networking hubs, syncing applications and SMS-based apps.
There are three partnerships that are set to continue, including Apple's deal which will extend past October, a deal with Amazon and Tobii, which builds an eye-tracking app to make Facebook accessible for ALS patients. Other ongoing partnerships with Mozilla and Opera let the browsers display Facebook notifications and don't include access to friends' data.
Prior to discontinuing the data sharing practices, Apple allowed Facebook users to download profile photos to add to their iPhone contact list, and BlackBerry devices were able to access the messages feature. The company has defended these practices because they make the social network work properly on hundreds of different devices.
The company has also acknowledged that it gave 61 app developers up to six months more time to wind down their data collection after adding stricter sharing controls in 2014.
None of these partnerships can be assumed to be malicious in intent, but there is some concern that Facebook has shared data beyond a FTC consent decree which requires the company to get permission before collecting excess information on users. Facebook has publicly told Congress that it has not strayed from the settlement.
This new document comes only a couple weeks after Facebook handed Congress 452 pages of answers to questions that Mark Zuckerberg did not immediately respond to during his testimony. However, as the Washington Post points out, Facebook has failed to explain why it did not audit "thisismydigital life", an app that was at the epicentre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The document fails to address hundreds of questions collected from users of the service, too.