Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Documents show Facebook used user data as competitive weapon

Published:Thursday | December 6, 2018 | 10:51 AM
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, California, earlier this year. The British Parliament has released some 250 pages worth of documents that show Facebook considered charging developers for data access. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP file)

Internal Facebook documents released by a U.K. parliamentary committee offer the clearest evidence yet that the social network has used its enormous trove of user data as a competitive weapon, often in ways designed to keep its users in the dark.

Parliament’s media committee accused Facebook on Wednesday of cutting special deals with some app developers to give them more access to data, while icing out others that it viewed as potential rivals.

In other documents, company executives discussed how they were keeping the company’s collection and exploitation of user data from its users. That included quietly collecting the call records and text messages of users of phones that run on Google’s Android operating system without asking their permission.

The U.K. committee released more than 200 pages of documents on the tech giant’s internal discussions about the value of users’ personal information.

While they mostly cover the period between 2012 and 2015 —the first three years after Facebook went public — they offer a rare glimpse into the company’s inner workings and the extent to which it used people’s data to make money while publicly vowing to protect their privacy.

The company’s critics said the new revelations reinforced their concerns over what users actually know about how Facebook treats their data.

Facebook called the documents misleading and said the information they contain is “only part of the story.”

“Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform,” the company said in a statement. “But the facts are clear: We’ve never sold people’s data.”

In a Facebook post , company CEO Mark Zuckerberg sought to put the documents in context. “Of course, we don’t let everyone develop on our platform,” he wrote.

“We blocked a lot of sketchy apps. We also didn’t allow developers to use our platform to replicate our functionality or grow their services virally in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook.”

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