OH NO! FACEBOOK, NOT ANOTHER DATA TRICK
Facebook used the mountains of data it collected on users to favour certain partners and punish rivals, a British parliamentary committee has revealed.
Facebook used the mountains of data it collected on users to favour certain partners and punish rivals — giving companies such as Airbnb and Netflix special access to its platform while cutting off others that it perceived as threats.
The tactics came to light in internal Facebook e-mails and other company documents released by a British parliamentary committee that is investigating online misinformation. The documents spotlight Facebook’s behaviour from roughly 2012 to 2015, a period of explosive growth as the company exposed how to manage the information it was gathering on users and debated how best to profit from what it was building.
The documents show how Facebook executives treated data as the company’s most valuable resource and often wielded it to gain a strategic advantage. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, were intimately involved in decisions aimed at benefiting the social network above all else and keeping users as engaged as possible on the site, according to e-mails that were part of the document trove.
In one exchange from 2012 when Mr Zuckerberg discussed charging developers for access to user data and persuading them to share their data with the social network, he wrote: “It’s not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network. So ultimately, I think the purpose of platform — even the read side — is to increase sharing back into Facebook.”
The release of the internal documents adds to Facebook’s challenges as it wrestles with issues as varied as how it enabled the spread of misinformation and whether it properly safeguarded the data of its users. Mr Zuckerberg and Ms Sandberg are under scrutiny for their handling of the matters the executives have publicly said they were slow to respond to some of the problems.
Facebook had tried to stop parliament from releasing the documents. The materials had been under seal in the United States as part of a lawsuit in California with an app developer. Damian Collins, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating Facebook, used parliament’s sergeant-at-arms to obtain the documents last month. Mr Collins said he had the jurisdiction to procure and publish the documents as part of his panel’s investigation.
In a statement, Facebook said the documents had been selectively chosen to be embarrassing and misleading as part of a “baseless” lawsuit. “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. “But the facts are clear: We have never sold people’s data.”
Mr Zuckerberg posted his own response on Facebook after the publication of the documents, saying the company had limited its access to certain apps and made other changes to prevent abuse of its platform.
Employees work in Facebook’s ‘War Room.’