Does Facebook’s Partnerships Put Your (and Your Friends’) Data At Risk?

Recently, the New York Times discovered what could be considered a Facebook violation of the FTC’s 2011 consent decree that requires users to give explicit consent to use their personal data and access to their’ friends/linked accounts’ data—partnerships with device makers, including Apple, Samsung and Blackberry. Facebook adamantly maintains that data sharing under these partnership agreements are not violations but enhancements to users’ experience on their partners’ devices. Nevertheless, your privacy and that of your friends could be at risk.

Your Business’ Page Is Not the Problem

The privacy issues that Facebook’s partnerships introduce do not really apply to business Pages—only personal Profiles. So, businesses using Facebook for marketing and social engagement can continue to do so without fear that such activities put their Followers at risk for data access breaches.

However, every Page requires a personal Profile to administer it. And that’s where/how your business’ Page may enter the privacy issue arena. If you use a mobile device made by one of Facebook’s partners, administration of your Facebook Page entails use of your Facebook Profile, the data for which (including your friends) is inherently accessible by these partners.

How to Protect Your Privacy

The reason Facebook’s partnerships have come under such intense scrutiny is because the access device maker partners are given supersedes your privacy settings. In other words, it doesn’t matter how private you make your Profile information and that you’ve declined access to your Profile by third-party apps. Facebook’s partners can still get your data and your friends’.

Admittedly, that makes privacy protection a bit of a mystery. There is no reason to not implement the protections you do have—making your Profile private and denying access by third-party apps. Because the privacy “loopholes” involve partnerships with mobile devices, you may consider limiting activity on and/or deleting the Facebook app altogether. (For busy business owners trying to maintain real-time engagement with their Facebook following, we know this may not be a realistic solution.)

Unfortunately, additional protection has to come from Facebook itself—i.e., limiting partners’ access to Profile data. Facebook has already started to end some partnerships, but fully closing loopholes may require FTC/Congressional intervention. (Facebook is also facing pressure from abroad to clarify and amend its partnerships and privacy protections to keep users’ data secure.) You may consider contacting your representative to express your concern and support for more stringent privacy protection policies and enforcement.