Raising fresh concerns about Facebook's privacy protection policies, a New York Times report has exposed how the social network allowed about 60 device makers, including Apple and Samsung, to access personal information of users and their friends.
Even before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, Facebook had data-sharing partnerships with the device makers, the report said citing company officials, adding that most of the deals remain in effect.
While the device partnerships allowed Facebook to expand its reach, it let the phone makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, "like" buttons and address books.
The deals raise concerns about the company's privacy protections and compliance with a 2011 consent decree with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), The Times said.
Facebook, which is already under scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users' data after the Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal became public, reportedly allowed the device companies access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent.
While Facebook's leaders said that the kind of access exploited by the political consulting firm in 2014 was cut off by the next year as it prohibited developers from collecting information from users' friends.
But the company officials did not disclose that such restrictions were not applicable to makers of cellphones, tablets and other hardware, the report said.
However, Facebook officials denied the device partnerships violated its privacy policies, the FTC agreement and pledges to users.
They said its partnerships were governed by contracts that strictly limited use of the data, including any stored on partners' servers, adding that they knew of no cases where the information had been misused.
"These partnerships work very differently from the way in which app developers use our platform," Ime Archibong, a Facebook vice president was quoted as saying.