United Kingdom parliament releases internal Facebook documents

United Kingdom parliament releases internal Facebook documents

Facebook touted itself as championing privacy four years ago when it made a decision to restrict outsider developers' access to data about its users' friends.

That's according to internal Facebook emails and documents published by UK Parliament as part of an investigation into privacy and disinformation.

"Facebook [has] clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data", the Parliament committee said in a statement preceding the emails. Damien Geradin, a Brussels-based lawyer at Euclid Law, said the refusal of access to Vine data could be seen as a "potential refusal to deal" with rivals, "but you would need to show that Facebook" is essential to users and it is "not clear it is".

The documents were part of a California lawsuit filed by app developer Six4Three.

"Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special objective app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it", Zuckerberg wrote in 2012. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of US software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc. attends the Viva Tech start-up and technology gathering at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris.

Facebook has refuted six specific areas, as laid out by the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins, in a recent blog post.

Facebook weighed charging other apps for access to its developer tools, including the friends lists, if they did not buy a certain amount of advertising from Facebook, according to the emails.

Facebook had objected to their release.

The documents show that Facebook tracked growth of competitors and denied them access to user data available to others.

The summary said the documents also show Facebook knew that an update to its Android mobile app phone system - which enabled the Facebook app to collect user call logs - would be controversial. It deliberately made it harder for users to be aware of this happening in order to avoid bad PR, the MP stressed. Motherboard calls the almost 250 pages of documents "devastating" for Facebook, but the company says in a statement that the documents were gathered as part of a "baseless case" and "are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context". "In some situations, when necessary, we allowed developers to access a list of the users' friends", the company said.

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