Facebook shared personal information from user profiles with companies after the date when executives have said the social network prevented third-party developers from gaining access to the data, the company confirmed on Friday.
The records included information about the friends of Facebook users, including phone numbers and analysis of the degrees of separation between people, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Facebook acknowledged the information was given to a “small number” of companies including RBC Capital Markets, Nissan, advertisers and other business partners.
The companies had access to the data during 2015, after Facebook locked out most developers who build apps that work on its social network. Facebook gave select “whitelisted” companies extensions before they were also blocked.
Those extensions expired before the end of 2015, Facebook said. The company believes the previously unreported extensions are consistent with previous statements that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has made, including in testimony to Congress, about shielding 2.2 billion users’ personal information from third parties since 2015.
“Any new ‘deals’, as the Journal describes them, involved people’s ability to share their broader friends’ lists – not their friends’ private information like photos or interests,” Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice-president of product partnerships, said in a written statement.
The Journal report capped another tough week for Facebook as it continues to grapple with the fallout from a privacy scandal that erupted nearly three months ago with the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm tied to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, scooped up the personal information of 87 million users.
Facebook recently disclosed it has been sharing its users’ information with about 60 device makers, including Samsung. Shortly after that, the company revealed that a software bug caused the posts of about 14 million users to be shared publicly regardless of privacy settings.
The bug, which affected posts last month, has been fixed, according to Facebook. The company also says it is phasing out data-sharing deals that it has struck with device makers dating back to 2007.
The arrangements with device makers and the software bug issue are likely to be examined by the Federal Trade Commission. Regulators are investigating whether Facebook has violated a 2011 agreement preventing the company from sharing its users’ personal information or changing privacy controls without their consent. Violations could result in fines.
So far, Facebook’s advertising-driven business has not been significantly damaged by the questions surrounding its ability to protect the reams of personal information shared and stored on its social network.
Facebook has continued gaining users since news of the Cambridge Analytica debacle broke, according to Zuckerberg, and so far there has been no evidence that advertisers are abandoning the social network.
Facebook’s stock closed Friday at $189.10, slightly above its price before the Cambridge Analytica bombshell dropped.