Facebook accused of making ‘secret deals’ involving user data |  Confidential Facebook internal documents seized by MPs

A number of emails written by Facebook’s chief, Mark Zuckerberg, and his deputies has been seized by UK government MPs. These Facebook internal documents reveal ‘secret deals’ giving some developers special access to user data while refusing others. The cache of internal documents has been published online by a parliamentary committee. It said files also showed Facebook had deliberately made it “as hard as possible” for users to be aware of privacy changes to its Android app. Facebook had objected to their release, according to BBC News. Facebook said that the documents had been presented in a “very misleading manner” and required additional context. The emails were obtained from the CEO of Six4Three – a software firm that is suing the social media giant. They were then disclosed by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its inquiry into fake news. Approximately 250 pages have been published, some of which are marked “highly confidential”.

Facebook internal documents – key issues

Damian Collins MP, the chair of the committee, highlighted several “key issues” in an introductory note. Mr Collins wrote that:

  • Facebook allowed some companies to maintain “full access” to users’ friends data even after announcing changes to its platform in 2014/2015 to limit what developers’ could see. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted,”

  • Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users’ calls and texts would be controversial. “To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features,”

  • Facebook used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat

  • there was evidence that Facebook’s refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail

  • there had been much discussion of the financial value of providing access to friends’ data

Facebook said Six4Three had “cherry-picked” the documents and claimed they had omitted “important context”. A Facebook spokesperson said:

We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. …Like any business, we had many internal conversations about [ways] we could build a sustainable business model for our platform. …”But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”

Mark Zuckerberg also posted a personal response on his Facebook page:

I understand there is a lot of scrutiny on how we run our systems. That’s healthy given the vast number of people who use our services around the world, and it is right that we are constantly asked to explain what we do. …But it’s also important that the coverage of what we do, including the explanation of these internal documents – doesn’t misrepresent our actions or motives.”

More news stories about Facebook Sources and credits: BBC News

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