Facebook Inc let some companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, access users' lists of friends after it cut off that data for most other apps around 2015, according to documents released on Wednesday by a British lawmaker investigating fake news and social media.
A United Kingdom parliamentary committee has published 250 pages worth of Facebook documents, including emails sent between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives.
The documents show that Facebook tracked growth of competitors and denied them access to user data available to others.
Indeed, Facebook appeared to view access to user data as so valuable that CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally approved a decision to restrict a rival social networking platform from accessing it, according to internal emails.
'Yup, go for it, ' chief executive Mr Zuckerberg is said to have responded. The statement adds, "The facts are clear: we've never sold people's data".
It suggests that Facebook knew changes that would allow it to collect a record of calls and texts would be controversial on the Android operating system, so made it "as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app".
Facebook defended its practices in a statement.
Six4Three's founder, Ted Kramer, had obtained them as part of a legal discovery process in a US lawsuit against Facebook that his company has brought against the social network in California.
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Facebook had objected to their release.
The summary of findings' second takeaway is that Facebook consistently wanted to link "access to friends data to the financial value of the developers' relationship with [the company]".
The documents' publication coincides with a more hawkish shift in public opinion toward online collection of user data, prompted partly by revelations this year of how the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica misused Facebook users' information.
There were four other areas that Collins expressed concerns over ranging from the valuation of friends' data to increase FB revenues to using data collected from the Onavo VPN app. Facebook had "explanations" for them all and maintains that Six4Three only selected "some, but not all" documents and discussion in these matters.
Critics have drawn attention to this kind of behavior as being potentially in violation of USA and European antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, as the dominant Facebook platform can arguably be seen blocking competitors attempts to enter its market. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of USA software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London.
"Other ideas we considered but decided against included charging developers for usage of our platform, similar to how developers pay to use Amazon AWS or Google Cloud", he wrote.
He added that "enterprising journalists" would eventually "dig into what exactly the new update is requesting, then write stories about how 'Facebook uses new Android update to pry into your private life in ever more terrifying ways-reading your call logs, tracking you in businesses with beacons, etc.". The material has been put under seal by a California court but it was recently given to Damian Collins, the chairman of the committee, by the founder of Six4Three.
Facebook wants the laptop to be evaluated to determine what happened in the United Kingdom, to what extent the court order was breached, and how much of its confidential information has been divulged to the committee.