New documents show that Facebook never deserved its trust


Another week, another set of reminders that although Facebook likes to paint itself as an "optimistic" company, which simply helps users and connects the world, the reality is quite different. This week's reminder notes include a collection of newly released documents suggesting that the company has adopted a number of features and policies, even though these choices would hurt users and undermine innovation.

Yesterday, a Member of the UK Parliament published a treasure of internal documents of Facebook, obtained as part of a lawsuit by a company called Six4Three. Emails, memos, and slides have shed new light on Facebook's private behavior before, during, and after the events that led to Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Here are some key points of about 250 pages of documents.

Facebook uses new update for Android to meddle in their private lives in increasingly terrible ways

The documents include some of the internal discussions that led to the Facebook sneaky logging of Facebook messenger phone calls and history text messages from Android users. When a user discovered what Messenger was doing last spring, it caused public outrage shortly after the news from Cambridge Analytica. Facebook replied with a Actual check insisting that Messenger had never collected such data without clear permission from the user.

In newly revealed documents of 2015, YetFacebook officials discuss plans to coerce users to upgrade to a new and invasive version of Messenger privacy "without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog", though they know that such misrepresentation of application features was "too loud". to do from a PR perspective. "

This type of disrespect by the user's consent around the phone number and contact information previous search and investigation exhibiting Facebook's misuse of users' two-factor authentication phone numbers for targeted advertising. So disturbing is the mention of using call history and text messages to inform the notoriously mysterious PYMK, or People you may know, a resource for suggesting friends.

"I think we leaked information to developers"

A central theme of the documents is how Facebook chose to allow other developers to use their user data. They suggest that Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged early on that access to Facebook data was extremely valuable to other companies, and that Facebook's leadership was determined to leverage that value.

A small context: In 2010, Facebook launched version 1.0 of the Graph API, an extremely powerful and permissive API.Set of tools that third-party developers can use to access data about users of their applications and your friends.

Dozens of emails show how the company debated the monetization of access to this data. Company executives have proposed a number of different schemes, ranging from charging certain developers for per-user access to the need for "[Facebook] do not want to share data with "spending a certain amount of money per year on the Facebook ad platform or losing access to the data.

NEKO is the acronym for Facebook for your mobile app install ad system.

The needs of the users themselves were a minor concern. At one point, in an email of November 2012, an official mentioned the risk of "responsibility" to give developers such open access to such powerful information.

Zuckerberg replied:

Of course, two years later, this "leak" was exactly what happened: an obscure "search" application got access to data on 50 million people, who then sold to Cambridge Analytica.

"Whitelists" and access to user data

In 2015, partly in response to privacy concerns, Facebook switched to the more strict Graph API version 2.0. This version made it difficult to acquire data about a user's friends.

However, the documents suggest that certain companies were "placed on the whitelist" and continued to receive privileged access to user data after changing the API – without notice or transparent criteria for which companies should be on the list of permissions.

Companies that gained whitelist access to improved buddy data after changing the API included Netflix, AirBnB, Lyft and Bumble, as well as Badoo dating service and its Hot or Not spin-off.

The vast majority of smaller apps as well as larger companies like Ticketmaster have been denied access.

User data as an anti-competitive lever

Both before and after Facebook API changes, the documents indicate that the company has deliberately granted or retained access to the data to harm its competitors. In an e-mail conversation in January 2013, an employee announced the launch of the Twitter Vine app, which used the Facebook Friends API. The clerk proposed that they "turn off" Vine's access. Answer by Mark Zuckerberg?

"Yes, go ahead."


A significant portion of internal emails mentions Facebook reinforcing "data reciprocity": that is, requiring applications to use Facebook data to allow their users to share all of that data back to Facebook. This is ironic given the firm refusal of Facebook to grant reciprocal access to users' contact lists after using the contact export feature of Gmail to boost your initial growth.

In an email dated November 19, 2012, Zuckerberg described the company's thinking:

Emphasis ours.

It is no surprise that a company prioritizes what is good for it and its profit, but is a problem when Facebook runs over user rights and innovation to get there. And while Facebook required reciprocity from its developers, it prevented access from its competitors.

False user safety to outperform competitors

Facebook acquired Onavo Protect, a "secure" VPN application, in the fall of 2013. The application was marketed as a way for users to protect their web activities from prying eyes, but it appears that Facebook used it to collect data about all applications. user phone and immediately began data mining to gain a competitive advantage. Newly released slides suggest that Facebook has used Onavo to measure the reach of competing social apps, including Twitter, Vine and Path, and measure its penetration into emerging markets like India.

A "highly confidential" slide showing Onavo statistics for other important applications.

In August, Apple finally banned Onavo of your app store to collect such data in violation of your Terms of Service. These documents suggest that Facebook was collecting application data and using it to inform strategic decisions from the outset.

All but literally selling your data

In response to the documents, several Facebook printers affirmations as Mark Zuckerberg's own letter on Facebook defend the company with the chorus: "We never sell anybody's data".

This defense fails, because it does not address the main problems. Of course, Facebook does not sell user data directly for advertisers. No need. Facebook attempted to change access to users and their information in other ways. In another impressive example of the documents, Facebook appeared to offer Tinder privileged access during the API transition in exchange for the use of Tinder's "Moments" trademark term. And of course, Facebook keeps the lights selling access to the attention of specific users in the form of targeted advertisements.

No matter how far Zuckerberg separates, his data is at the heart of Facebook's business. Based on these documents, it appears that Facebook has absorbed as much data as possible "Reciprocity" agreements with other applications, and shared with the insufficient consequences for users. Then, after rolling back its permissive data-sharing APIs, the company apparently used privileged access to user data as a lever for get what you wanted from other companies or how a weapon against your competitors. You are, and always have been, Facebook's most valuable product.


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