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.”

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

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.

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