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Facebook said to have shared user data with select companies

Watchers of the continued data privacy issues plaguing Facebook must be wondering just how many more shoes can still drop about the social media giant’s data management practices.

The latest involves word that the firm gave certain companies special access to additional data about Facebook users’ friends. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, that practice went well beyond the May 15, 2015 date that Facebook said it had shut off access to that information.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April over the Cambridge Analytica data access scandal, and he apologized for the company's handling of customer data at that time. But new revelations have emerged about Facebook data sharing that have further raised the concern of lawmakers. The worry: who has, or has had, access to what customer data, when and for what purposes.

Mark Zuckerberg no doubt hoped his testimony and public apology about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal would have brought some closure to the matter. Not so fast.

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A woman checks the Facebook Inc. site on her smartphone whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing the Facebook Inc. logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. Facebook Inc.s WhatsApp messaging service, with more than 100 million local users, is the most-used app in Brazil, according to an Ibope poll published on Dec. 15. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As was reported by Bloomberg News, last week members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate voiced concerns about the firm’s data sharing arrangements with several Chinese device makers, which the company just disclosed. Facebook said that data sharing was necessary for the manufacturers to be able to build customer versions of the Facebook app.

Again from Bloomberg, it was also revealed by Facebook last week that a software bug had set the private posts of upwards of 14 million users to “public” for a brief period in May.

Now it has been revealed that Facebook struck customized data-sharing deals with several firms other than the four Chinese device makers. Two companies that have been identified as receiving such deals are Royal Bank of Canada and Nissan Motor Co., both advertisers on the site, says the Wall Street Journal.

Some of these agreements were reportedly known as “whitelists,” and enabled those companies to access information about a Facebook user’s friends, such as phone numbers and the ‘friend link’ that measures the degree of closeness between the user and those individuals in their network.

The latest revelation doesn’t help Facebook when it comes to possible action by Congress against it and other social media giants. Google and Twitter are also under scrutiny by Congress for their data sharing practices. All of these companies are also being quizzed on their data management practices by data privacy authorities in Europe.

In the meantime, the House and Senate commerce committees sent Zuckerberg a letter last week asking him if he wished to amend his testimony from the April meetings before them. He was given a deadline of June 18 if so.

But lawmakers are still waiting for Facebook to respond to formal questions they had given Zuckerberg at the April meetings. He missed the deadline to respond to those, Bloomberg noted. The company did say last week that those answers would be forthcoming by the end of this week.

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