Facebook has given some companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, preferential access to user data in 2015 as it has limited services to most others, according to e-mails and company presentations released by a British lawmaker.
The 223 pages of communication from 2012 to 2015 among top-level Facebook employees, including founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, show how the social media company debated revenue-generating sales by accessing data, tracking and avoiding rivals, and preparing for potential moved to capture more user data.
Damian Collins, a conservative member of the British Parliament, released the documents on Wednesday, after demanding them last month, under threat of Six4Tree's sanction. The defunct app developer got them as part of their ongoing lawsuit in California state court, claiming that Facebook violated promises to developers.
We need a more public debate on the rights of social media users and the smaller companies that need to work with technology giants. I hope our commission investigation can defend them.https://t.co/GRtQ5oMdvn
"Facebook [has] Clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they kept full access to data from friends, "the Parliament committee said in a statement that precedes the emails.
"It is not clear whether the user has consented to this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be put on the whitelist or not."
Facebook, which described the Six4Tree case as unfounded, said the disclosed communications are misleading without additional context, but did not elaborate.
"We are in agreement with the platform changes we made in 2015 to prevent a person from sharing their friends' data with the developers," the company said in a statement.
"As with any business, we've had a lot of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform. But the facts are clear: we never sell people data."
Although filed under the seal and worded in the lawsuit, Collins said the material needed to be disclosed because "they raise important questions about how Facebook handles user data, its policies to work with application developers, and how they exert their market dominance social media ".
Data Denied to Competitive Applications: MP
Collins is among the leaders of a UK survey of fake social media news, one of the many issues that prompted Facebook to target governments in several countries. Data breaches, allegations of Facebook's political bias in content recommendations and lobbying tactics have also drawn questions from lawmakers.
The Badoo and Lyft dating application was among the other "whitelisting" companies for accessing data on users' friends, the documents showed.
Collins also claimed that Facebook has taken aggressive positions against competing applications, denying them access to any user data.
The summary of the committee's key document issues said the documents also show that Facebook knew that an update on its Android mobile phone system – which allowed the Facebook application to collect user call records – would be controversial.
"To mitigate any PR problem, Facebook planned to make it as difficult for users to know that this was one of the features behind updating their application," said the summary.
The documents show an exchange between Zuckerberg and senior executive Justin Osofsky in 2013 in which they decided to stop giving friends access to data for Vine the day Twitter, a rival social media, launched the video sharing service .
"We prepared PR reactive," wrote Osofsky, to which Zuckerberg replied, "Yes, go ahead."