Facebook Wielded User Data to Reward and Punish Rivals, Emails Show

Facebook Wielded User Data to Reward and Punish Rivals, Emails Show

The British Parliament on Wednesday released a trove of Facebook documents, which it took possession of amid a larger inquiry into Cambridge Analytica, a firm that used Facebook data to profile users for political purposes.

Another plan which Facebook never put into practice was outlined by Mark Zuckerberg in an email in October 2012, where he suggests charging developers "a lot of money - perhaps on the order of $0.10 per user per year" - for access.

The developer, Six4Three, co-founded by Ted Kramer, built an app called Pikinis that could find pictures of friends wearing bikinis in their Facebook photos.

The MP also alleges "that increasing revenues from major app developers was one of the key drivers behind the Platform 3.0 changes at Facebook" in 2015, and that "the idea of linking access to friends data to the financial value of the developers" relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature'.

"Yup, go for it", Zuckerberg responded. "We've never sold people's data".

Crucially, LeBeau commented, according to the document, such a privacy change would require Android users to essentially opt in; Android, he said, would present them with a permissions dialog soliciting their approval to share call logs when they were to upgrade to a version of the app that collected the logs and texts.

Not all of the documents seized by the committee investigating fake news have been published. "We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents". The company denies that claim, arguing instead that, while it could have required developers to buy advertising, "we ultimately settled on a model where developers did not need to purchase advertising to access APIs and we continued to provide the developer platform for free". He adds, "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not".

Critics have drawn attention to this kind of behavior as being potentially in violation of United States and European antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, as the dominant Facebook platform can arguably be seen blocking competitors attempts to enter its market. Rather than letting devs pay a one time fee to fetch data, we could effectively do this by mandating that devs must keep data fresh and update their data each month for anything they call. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of US software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London. What's more, a 2018 review of the feature found that "the information is not as useful after about a year", which the company argues is really only good for low level tasks like sorting contact lists. Kramer is suing Facebook because of a decision it made in 2014 to prevent developers from peeping into friends' data.

In Britain, Zuckerberg and his leadership team are under fierce scrutiny since revelations that one developer, Cambridge Analytica, allegedly abused access to information about up to 87 million people on Facebook. "I think we leak info to developers, but I just can't think if any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us", he wrote in one of the emails.

Kramer was ordered by a judge on Friday to surrender his laptop to a forensic expert after admitting he turned over the documents to the British lawmakers, in violation of a USA court order.

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