Facebook wielded user data to reward, punish rivals, emails show

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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.

The 200-plus pages of documents, which are under seal in the U.S.as part of an ongoing lawsuit in California between Facebook and the developer Six4Three, were obtained late last month by Collins, who used the legislative body's sergeant-at-arms to seize them from a Six4Three executive.

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

In one email, dated January 23 2013, a Facebook engineer contacted Zuckerberg to say that rival Twitter Inc. had launched its Vine video-sharing tool, which users could connect to Facebook to find their friends there. When Twitter launched six-second video clip platform Vine, Zuckerberg approved revoking their access to Facebook's API.

"We've prepared reactive PR", Osofsky wrote, to which Zuckerberg replied, "Yup, go for it".

Committee chair Damian Collins said it was not clear from the private exchanges between Facebook and app developers whether users were aware that their friends list and other private information was being used. The good news about full reciprocity [where apps let users share their activity back to Facebook] is that for bigger social companies we might otherwise be anxious about, if they're enabling their users to push all of their social content back into Facebook then we're probably fine with them. He explained his rationale for releasing the emails in a tweet: "We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents".

Mr Collins alleged that Facebook maintained "whitelisting agreements" which gave select companies preferential access to valuable user data.

Facebook's seized files published by MPs
U.K. releases Facebook emails about data privacy

"But the facts are clear: we've never sold people's data".

Collins said last week that he would release the emails and that he was free under United Kingdom law to do so.

The emails feature in a case being heard in a California court filed against the giant by the now-defunct United States app developer Six4Three. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of US software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London.

But the documents also show discussions about giving special friend list access to particular companies, including Airbnb and Netflix, after it was no longer available by default to most developers.

However, The Verge reports that according to the emails Facebook developers tried finding ways to manipulate Android's data permissions so that it could automatically enrol users.

Bloomberg's Aoife White contributed.


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