Facebook defends sharing user data with phone makers

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(File photo)

(CNN Money) — Facebook is on the defensive again over how it handles people's personal data.

Under scrutiny this time is the company's practice of sharing information about its users with dozens of smartphone and tablet makers.

A New York Times investigation published late Sunday revealed the scope of data-sharing deals Facebook struck over the years with companies like Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft. The partnerships give some device makers access to Facebook users' education history, relationship status, work, religion, political leaning, and upcoming events, the Times reported.

In a blog post, Facebook confirmed some parts of the Times' report but disputed others.

It said it forged partnerships with around 60 companies back when mobile phones were less powerful and app stores did not yet exist. The social media company said it gave device makers access to software only so they could build versions of Facebook that worked on different phones or operating systems.

Related: Facebook execs grilled by investors after data scandal

"These partners signed agreements that prevented people's Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences," Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, wrote in the blog post.

"We are not aware of any abuse by these companies," he added, noting that Facebook has been "winding down access" to the software.

The New York Times reported that Facebook also gave device makers "access to the data of users' friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders."

Facebook disputed that finding, saying that "friends' information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends."

Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg ripped by European Parliament for dodging questions

Facebook is under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and users around the world over its handling of users' data and the steps it takes to protect their privacy.

The firestorm erupted in March when it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump's campaign, gained improper access to tens of millions of Facebook users' data.

The scandal pummeled Facebook's stock and prompted calls for greater regulation of big social media companies.

But CEO Mark Zuckerberg survived a series of grillings from lawmakers in the United States and Europe. And Facebook's stock has since recovered to trade close to its all-time high.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Facebook defends sharing user data with phone makers."