Cicilline's tweet came in response to a Sunday New York Times story that detailed "far-reaching data partnerships" Facebook has established with roughly 60 device makers including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung over the last decade.
Without explicit consent, device makers were allowed to access data of users' friends, even after Facebook said it would not share such information. The company apparently gave access to "vast amounts of its users' personal information" to device makers. That settlement followed complaints from users that Facebook wasn't allowing them to keep their information on the social network private-Facebook promised to get consent from users before sharing their data with third parties, and to avoid making deceptive claims about its privacy practices. "These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform", Facebook vice president Ime Archibong told NYT. Partners could not integrate the user's Facebook features with their devices without the user's permission.
The data-sharing arrangements date from as early as 2008; a lot of them continue through to today, although Facebook began dismantling some of the deals in April - the same month its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about privacy protections and political propaganda in Congress.
It defended its use of software tools called application programming interfaces (APIs), which it said had been developed to create "Facebook-like experiences" on smartphones at a time before use of its own mobile apps became commonplace. It also said that the features couldn't be used with permission and that its engineering teams approved all of them. "All these partnerships were built on a common interest - the desire for people to be able to use Facebook whatever their device or operating system".
Facebook says it made deals with around 60 companies, from Apple, Amazon and Blackberry to HTC, Microsoft and Samsung, to "recreate Facebook-like experiences" on their devices.
The agency is already investigating if Facebook ran afoul of that accord in another matter: allowing a political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, to access 87 million users' personal data, including the pages they had "liked" on the site.
"Consumers have the right to know how their personal information is being used; and the companies we trust with our information have a critical responsibility to protect it", she added.
BlackBerry responded to the Times reports, saying it does "not collect or mine the Facebook data of [its] customers". "It's why we announced in April that we're winding down access to them", the company wrote. The company claimed that once it discovered Cambridge Analytica's transgression, it immediately took swift action to rectify the situation. Twenty-two of the partnerships have since ended, it said. "BlackBerry users seem to have been turned into data dealers, unknowingly and unwillingly".