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.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive
“I understand there is a lot of scrutiny on how we run our systems,” he wrote, adding that context was needed. “This was an important change to protect our community, and it achieved its goal.”
In the United States, lawmakers said some of the documents raised questions about whether Mr Zuckerberg had told them the truth when he testified in April and said Facebook did not sell people’s data.
“Americans’ data belongs to them, not Facebook,” said Democrat Senator Edward J. Markey, from Massachusetts. “Any evidence of a pay-fordata model would fly in the face of the statements Facebook has made to Congress and the public.”
Much of what was disclosed in the documents was not new, but the emails provide insight into the calculations of top executives as they worked to cement Facebook’s position as the world’s dominant social network. 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.
The 250 pages of documents cover a period when Facebook was shifting its business from a focus on desktop computers to mobile devices. After years of being largely open in sharing data with partners, Facebook was beginning to debate how to be compensated for the data it was sharing.
For companies it liked, including Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix, Facebook made special “white list” agreements. The deals gave the partners preferred access to data that other companies had been restricted from receiving after a Facebook policy change.
But for other companies that Facebook perceived as a threat, the company was less accommodating. In 2013, after Twitter released the video app Vine, Facebook shut off access to its Facebook friends data.
“Unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down their friends API access today,” Justin Osofsky, a Facebook executive, said in an e-mail at the time.
Mr Zuckerberg responded: “Yup, go for it.”
E-mails also show that Facebook was hungry for more data and that user privacy, at least at the time, was an impediment to its goals of growth and engagement.
In one email exchange, employees discussed avoiding a potential public backlash about an update to its Android app that would log calls made by people on their phones.
“This is a pretty high risk thing to do from a PR perspective but it appears that the growth team will charge ahead and do it,” Michael Lebeau, an employee, said in a 2015 e-mail.