(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) gave some companies, including Netflix (NFLX.O) and Airbnb, preferential access to user data in 2015 as it limited services for most others, according to company emails and presentations released by a British lawmaker.
A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
The 223 pages of communication from 2012 to 2015 between high-level Facebook employees, including founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, show how the social media company debated generating revenue by selling access to data, tracked and fended off rivals and braced for potential blowback as it moved to capture more user data.
Damian Collins, a Conservative member of parliament, made the documents public on Wednesday after demanding them last month under threat of sanction from Six4Three. The defunct app developer obtained them as part of its ongoing lawsuit in California state court alleging that Facebook violated promises to developers.
Facebook, which has described the Six4Three case as baseless, said the released communications are misleading without additional context, but did not elaborate.
“We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers,” a spokesperson said.
Though filed under seal and redacted in the lawsuit, the material needed to be made public because “they raise important questions about how Facebook treats users’ data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market,” Collins said on Twitter.
Collins has been among leaders of a British inquiry into fake news on social media, one of the many issues that has brought Facebook into the crosshairs of governments in several countries. Data breaches, allegations of political bias by Facebook in content recommendations and lobbying tactics have also drawn questions from lawmakers.
Dating app Badoo and Lyft were among the other companies ‘whitelisted’ for access to data about users’ friends, the documents here showed.
Collins also alleged that Facebook took aggressive positions against competitor apps by denying them access to any user data.
The documents show an exchange between Zuckerberg and senior executive Justin Osofsky in 2013, in which they decided to stop giving friends’ data access to Vine on the day that social media rival Twitter launched the video-sharing service.
“We’ve prepared reactive PR,” Osofsky wrote, to which Zuckerberg replied, “Yup, go for it.”
Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Berkrot