The Times reports that Facebook granted major tech companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Spotifydata access to users' friends lists and private messages without user consent in an attempt to grow its user base and drive more advertising dollars.
The Times cited more than 270 pages of Facebook documents used to track partnerships, reporting that a number of companies – also including Microsoft and Yahoo – were not subject to typical privacy controls. In exchange, Facebook used contact lists from its partners to learn more about people's relationships and suggest more connections, according to the report published Tuesday.
"The deals, the oldest of which date to 2010, were all active in 2017," The Times reported. "Some were still in effect this year."
Under the deal, The Times said Microsoft's Bing search engine could "see the names of virtually all Facebook users' friends without consent." Other partners had the ability to read, write or delete users' private messages, the Times reports.
Spotify and Netflix said they were unaware of such access in statements to The Times, and The Royal Bank of Canada, another named partner, "disputed that the bank had any access," according to the report.
Later Tuesday, Facebook denied giving wider access to its data without first obtaining users' permission.
Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's director of developer platforms and programs, issued a statement, saying: "To be clear: none of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people's permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC."
Papamiltiadis said the company has "been public" about the features and partnerships because it wanted people to use them. Both were "discussed, reviewed, and scrutinized by a wide variety of journalists and privacy advocates," he said.
Papamilitiadis noted that most of the features no longer exist, but said Facebook recognizes "that we've needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information using our APIs."