Facebook e-mails reveal Zuckerberg deliberations on user data

06 December, 2018, 09:53 | Author: Emmett Rice
  • Facebook's seized files published by MPs

Facebook granted some tech firms full access to its user data as it sought to cultivate lucrative business ties with them - long after it said it was dropping the practice because of privacy concerns, according to an explosive cache of secret documents and emails.

Facebook gave certain companies like Lyft, Netflix and Airbnb preferential treatment by allowing them to access users' data, according to a massive trove of secret documents and emails released by a British parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

The emails show Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg mulling charging app developers for data access in 2012.

"(The documents) raise important questions about how Facebook treats users' data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market", he said.

A memo similarly describes reciprocity as "an equable value exchange between a third-party developer and Facebook", involving "high-quality experiences" for Facebook users or direct payments "in return" for "access to out Platform". "We explored multiple ways to build a sustainable business with developers who were building apps that were useful to people", the company said in a statement.

The summary said the documents also show Facebook knew that an update to its Android mobile app phone system - which enabled the Facebook app to collect user call logs - would be controversial.

"Americans' data belongs to them, not Facebook", said Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Facebook's seized files published by MPs

Parliament's media committee seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo searching app as part of its investigation into fake news.

Executives also seemed concerned that simply enabling Facebook logins and data access for potentially competing platforms could ultimately cannibalize user activity on Facebook itself. He also mentioned that Facebook "teams are all really excited about this use case for its potential to (a) have the finserv industry re-think the role of Facebook in retail banking, and (b) act as a test case for more compelling high signal "transactions" over FB messages (sending money, sharing files, customer service with a business, etc.)".

The documents were brought to light by U.S. software company Six4Three, which were gathered as part of a legal case against the social network.

"The idea of linking access to friends' data to the financial value of the developers' relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature of the documents", Collins said. "Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special goal app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it".

"These developers do not want to participate in the ecosystem we have created, but rather build their own ecosystem at the expense of our users, other developers and, of course, us". The materials had been under seal in the United States as part of a lawsuit in California with an app developer.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has disputed such allegations in the past.

The documents shine a spotlight on Facebook's behaviour from roughly 2012 to 2015, a period of explosive growth as the company navigated how to manage the information it was gathering on users and debated how best to profit from what it was building. A subsequent email suggests users wouldn't need to be prompted to give permission for this feature to be activated. Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was happening.

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