Facebook gave Spotify and Netflix access to users’ private messages
An exhaustive report from The New York Times shows the alarming extents to which Facebook has been sharing user data.
- The report is based on internal documents and interviews with former employees of Facebook and its corporate partners.
- It shows how Facebook gave more than 100 tech companies access to user data that goes beyond the scope that the social media giant had previously disclosed.
- Below are some tips for how you can prevent Facebook from sharing your personal data.
A new report shows how Facebook gave its partnering tech companies "more intrusive" access to user data than previously disclosed, including access to private messages.
The New York Times obtained hundreds of pages of documents and interviewed about 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners for its report. It reveals how the social media giant opened up its massive cache of user data to major tech companies in order to boost profits and gain users.
Facebook never quite sold its users' data, but it did grant "other companies access to parts of the social network in ways that advanced its own interests," the report states. One example is Facebook's partnership with Spotify, a music-streaming platform on which new users can easily create an account using their Facebook sign-in information.
Partnerships like this were part of a long-term strategy to "weave Facebook's services into other sites and platforms, believing it would stave off obsolescence and insulate Facebook from competition," according to the report.
In many cases, Facebook's partner companies had access to users' friends lists, contact information and, in the case of Netflix and Spotify, private messages. These third-party companies often didn't obtain permission from Facebook users to access their information. That's possibly because Facebook, in a legal sense, considered its partners to be extensions of itself. Therefore, the companies weren't in violation of a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that barred Facebook from sharing users' data without permission.
Protestors from the pressure group Avaaz demonstrate outside Portcullis house where Facebook's Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer is to be questioned by members of parliament in London on April 26, 2018.
Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
Not everyone agrees.
"This is just giving third parties permission to harvest data without you being informed of it or giving consent to it," David Vladeck, who formerly ran the F.T.C.'s consumer protection bureau, told The Times. "I don't understand how this unconsented-to data harvesting can at all be justified under the consent decree."
Spokespeople for Facebook told The Times that the partnerships didn't violate users' privacy or the F.T.C. agreement, and that the company has found no evidence of wrongdoing by its partners. Some partners, including Amazon and Microsoft, said they used data appropriately, but declined to elaborate on what that means.
Many companies said they were unaware of the extent of the powers Facebook had granted them through the partnerships. It remains unclear how closely Facebook monitored the ways in which its partners used user data.
Shares of Facebook stock dropped following the report, shedding as much as $22 billion in market value. The news comes in the wake of multiple scandals that have bombarded the company this year, most recently the seizure of hundreds of internal documents by British lawmakers.
How to prevent Facebook from sharing your data
One of the best ways to protect your data, besides not using Facebook at all, is to make sure you never sign into a third-party platform by using your Facebook information. You can see which apps or websites you're currently logged into using Facebook by checking out your current settings:
- Desktop: Go to Settings > Apps and Websites. This should produce a list of all the services you're logged into with your Facebook information, and here you'll be able to remove unwanted services. (Just note that this might delete your account and other information on the selected apps.)
- Mobile: Go to Apps > Logged in with Facebook, and follow the above steps.
Is personal data the "oil of the 21st century"?
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
That's the claim The Times makes in its new report. The data seems to back it up: By the end of 2018, American companies are projected to spend around $20 billion on user data. There's no shortage of it. Each day, about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data gets created, and much of that is personal data with which companies can use to created targeted ads, refine their services, study consumer habits, and, frankly, god knows what else.
Researchers have just discovered the remains of a hybrid human.
90,000 years ago, a young girl lived in a cave in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Her life was short; she died in her early teens, but she stands at a unique point in human evolution. She is the first known hybrid of two different kinds of ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
These thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs are propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
- The tech industry may be dominated by men in terms of numbers, but there are lots of brilliant women in leadership positions that are changing the landscape.
- The women on this list are founders of companies dedicated to teaching girls to code, innovators in the fields of AI, VR, and machine learning, leading tech writers and podcasters, and CEOs of companies like YouTube and Project Include.
- This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more influential women in tech that you should seek out and follow.
The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>