The Centre has asked Facebook for a detailed explanation of news reports claiming the US-based social media company’s agreement with device manufacturers allowing access these firms to its users’ data without taking explicit consent. The Indian Express reported Wednesday that the government was studying the reports which allege Facebook sharing user data with at least 60 different device makers, including companies such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon and Blackberry, and certain Chinese companies such as Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo, etc.
“The Government of India is deeply concerned about reports of such lapses/violations. In response to earlier notices about breaches of personal data relating to the Cambridge Analytica episode, Facebook had apologised and given strong assurances to the Government of India that they would take sincere efforts to protect the privacy of users’ data on the platform. However, such reports raise uncomfortable questions about the assurances made by Facebook. Therefore, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has sought an explanation from Facebook seeking a detailed factual report on the issue,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that Facebook has been given time till June 20 to respond.
A report by The New York Times, earlier this week, said that Facebook had entered into data-sharing partnerships with the manufacturers over the last ten years, which later came under scrutiny due to the company’s privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with Federal Trade Commission. The report said that Facebook allowed the device makers access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders.
The social media company is already under fire for the data breach incident involving UK-based data analytics and political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. The IT ministry had sent a notice seeking details from the internet company about breach of user data in the Cambridge Analytica case.
Facebook, in response to The New York Times article, had said in a blog post: “In the early days of mobile, the demand for Facebook outpaced our ability to build versions of the product that worked on every phone or operating system. It’s hard to remember now but back then there were no app stores. So companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube had to work directly with operating system and device manufacturers to get their products into people’s hands. This took a lot of time — and Facebook was not able to get to everyone”.
“To bridge this gap, we built a set of device-integrated APIs that allowed companies to recreate Facebook-like experiences for their individual devices or operating systems. Over the last decade, around 60 companies have used them — including many household names such as Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, HTC, Microsoft and Samsung,” the blog post authored by Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice-president of product partnerships, said.