Emails Indicate that Facebook Secretly Shared Personal Data with Dating Services and Others

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Facebook has reportedly given personal data of its users to an exclusive roster of preferred companies such as AirBnB, Netflix and Lyft, even after claiming it had limited this data-sharing practice. One of the companies Facebook shared information with was dating service Badoo.

According to The Daily Beast, the British Parliament released 250 pages of documents, including internal communications between Facebook employees, regarding the secret data sharing practice. This potential scandal comes in the wake of Facebook’s launch of a new dating platform. Critics have been skeptical of whether or not people will feel comfortable joining in light of the privacy issues, and the latest news doesn’t look good for Facebook.

Facebook changed its data sharing practices with third party apps back in 2014 to restrict access, which affected many small app development companies like Six4Three that mined Facebook user data. The developer claimed in a lawsuit against Facebook that the social media giant favored lucrative companies and was willing to share data with them.

Badoo was one such company, asking Facebook back in 2014 to reconsider sharing data. “We have been compelled to write to you to explain the hugely detrimental effect that removing friend permissions will cause to our hugely popular (and profitable) applications Badoo and Hot or Not…The friends data we receive from users is integral to our product (and indeed a key reason for building Facebook verification into our apps).”

Facebook responded to Badoo in early 2015, describing a new API that would allow certain apps to see data about users’ Facebook friends. Facebook whitelisted Badoo, Hot or Not, and Bumble among others to use the new API, despite its new practice concerning third party apps.

According to The Verge, Facebook appears to have used the preferential API as a bargaining chip, including asking Tinder for the right to use its trademarked term “moments” in exchange for access.

But Facebook’s preferential treatment of some companies over others could be a violation of federal anti-monopoly law, according to experts. The Verge noted that a group called Freedom From Facebook has pressed for action to be taken against the social media giant, who the group said is “seemingly in violation of antitrust laws, from tying arrangements involving data, to the marginalization and exclusion of competitors from Facebook’s dominant platform, to illegal conditions surrounding Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp.”

Facebook could be facing even more legal issues. In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree that prohibits the company from deceiving users about privacy practices. If Facebook is found to have violated this, they could face a hefty fine, or worse, if they are found to have suppressed competition, the Justice Department could take action.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said: “These new documents show clearly that Facebook failed to heed their consent decree agreement and basic standards of privacy. The FTC must act decisively and vigorously to end this consistent pattern of negligence and disregard for consumer privacy and legal orders.”

This past year Facebook got into online dating. It is currently in limited release and is only available to singles from a few countries. We expect the service to be released worldwide by 2019. For more information see our Facebook Dating review.