- Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize
- Facebook acknowledged that it gave Mail.Ru special access to user data after 2015, when it officially ended the system that allowed third-party apps to access user data.
- Mail.Ru was among dozens of companies that were granted special temporary access to Facebook user data.
- Mail.Ru has ties to the Kremlin, according to news reports.
Facebook is facing fresh scrutiny over its data-sharing practices following the publication of reports highlighting how a Russian internet giant with ties to the Russian government gained access to user data.
On Tuesday, CNN and Wired published reports exploring how Mail.Ru built apps that were able to access Facebook user data after the social network locked down its platform in 2015. Facebook recently disclosed in written testimony to US Congress that Mail.Ru had built apps that integrated with its platform – and that it was one of a select group of app makers that was given an extension beyond the formal 2015 cut-off date.
According to CNN and Wired, Mail.Ru was granted an extra two weeks of access to this user data. Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Mail.Ru’s parent company was founded by Alisher Usmanov, a Russian businessman with links to the Kremlin. As such, Mail.Ru’s activity on the platform has raised some eyebrows, and prompted calls for more information: The Russian government infamously used Facebook to sow disinformation and propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election.
What’s more, a former Mail.Ru CEO and Chairman, Yuri Milner, invested $200 million for a 2% stake Facebook in 2009 through his firm Digital Sky Technologies, and another few hundred million dollars in the following years. Milner, who stepped down as Mail.Ru Chairman in 2012, has since sold its stake in Facebook, CNN reported.
In a statement given to CNN, Democratic senator Mark Warner called for more information: “In the last 6 months we’ve learned that Facebook had few controls in place to control the collection and use of user data by third parties.
“Now we learn that the largest technology company in Russia, whose executives boast close ties to Vladimir Putin, had potentially hundreds of apps integrated with Facebook, collecting user data. If this is accurate, we need to determine what user information was shared with mail.ru and what may have been done with the captured data.”