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Facebook gave some companies special access to additional information about users’ friends



Facebook
Inc.


FB 0.49%

made custom data exchange agreements with a select group of companies, some of which had special access to user records well after the point in 2015 that the social networks The giant has said that it cut all the developers of that information, according to court documents, company officials and people familiar with the matter.

Undeclared agreements, known internally as "white lists," also allowed certain companies to access additional information about a user's Facebook friends, people familiar with the matter said. That included information such as phone numbers and a metric called "friend link" that measured the degree of closeness between users and others in their network, people said.

White list deals were made with companies that include

Royal Bank of Canada

Y

Nissan Motor
Co.

, who advertised on Facebook or were valuable for other reasons, according to some of the people familiar with the matter. They show that Facebook gave special access to data to a wider universe of companies than previously disclosed. They also raise more questions about who has access to the data of billions of Facebook users and why they had access, at a time when Congress requires the company to account for the flow of that data.

Many of these personalized offers were separated from Facebook's data exchange alliances with at least 60 device manufacturers, which they revealed this week. Several lawmakers and regulators have subsequently said that these device arrays deserve further investigation.

Facebook officials said the company achieved a small number of deals with developers primarily to improve the user experience, test new features and allow certain partners to relax previously. existing data exchange projects. The company said it allowed a "small number" of partners to access data about a user's friends after the data was closed to developers in 2015. Many of the extensions lasted for weeks and months, Facebook said. It is not clear when all the offers expired or how many companies obtained extensions.

The vast majority of developers who connected to the Facebook platform did not know that the company offered this access or preferred extensions to certain partners, according to people familiar with the matter

Ime Archibong, vice president of companies Facebook products, said in an interview on Friday that the company maintained a "principled and consistent approach to how we work with developers over the past 11 years."

He added that there were some cases in which the The company worked "more closely" with individual developers to test new features or close products. "But we have been extremely, I would say, persistent and objective with respect to how we work with developers," Archibong added.

Privacy experts said that Facebook users probably did not know how their data was shared. "I do not think anyone has a reasonable understanding of how widespread this was," he said.

David Vladeck,

Director of the Consumer Protection Office of the Federal Trade Commission from 2009 to 2013 and now professor in the Georgetown Law.

Mr. Vladeck said that any agreement made after 2012 could cause scrutiny on whether Facebook breached its agreement with the FTC that year, according to which the company must give users of the social network a clear and prominent notice and obtain their express consent before to share your information beyond your privacy settings. Facebook said on Friday that it has not violated the agreement.

The revelations occur as Facebook deals with the consequences in March related to the use of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, a political analysis firm that helped the president

Donald Trump

Presidential campaign of 2016 and data purchased on 87 million users of another developer. The crisis sparked questions about the laxity of Facebook's monitoring of its platform, an FTC investigation of whether the company violated the 2012 agreement and two appearances in Congress by Facebook's chief executive.

Mark Zuckerberg

in April.

In his testimony before Congress, Zuckerberg said Facebook moved to eliminate broad access to information about user friends in 2014. Developers had until May 2015 to comply with the rules. The measurement was a hard blow for the developers, which forced to close several applications without access to the data. Others had to find alternative solutions to continue operating.

On Friday, the company acknowledged that a subset of companies received extensions beyond May 2015.

"When we were finishing the year, there were a small number of companies that requested short-term extensions, and that, we worked with them, "said Mr. Archibong of Facebook. "But other than that, things were closed."

Facebook's relationships with external developers have changed over time as they make key adjustments to the way they share data.

In 2007, the company began to allow developers – called social graph, which includes crucial information about a user's friends. Unlike advertisers, developers did not have to pay for this information, which led to a new generation of new companies based on social connections.

This agreement also made Facebook more and more central in the daily lives of its users, despite the objections of privacy groups and some users about possible abuses of that data. By 2014, developers could access about 30 different data points about users' friends, including places they entered, educational history, and religious and political affiliation.

Initially, Facebook negotiated special agreements with certain companies, some people with knowledge of said offers. "Ninety-nine percent of the developers received the same treatment, but 1% received special treatment because they represented the full value of the platform," said a former Facebook employee, referring to popular applications and services that attracted users. users

Finally, Facebook created internal teams dedicated to the intermediation and development of personalized data offers.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com and Kirsten Grind at kirsten.grind@wsj.com

Corrections and extensions
Royal Bank of Canada was a of Facebook companies gave special access to the data. An earlier version of the article incorrectly said that RBC Capital Markets had special access. (June 8, 2018)

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