Facebook gave Netflix and Airbnb preferential data access to data, documents reveal
Dec 06 2018
They were reportedly taken using an obscure legal power when the boss of USA software company Six4Three - which is involved in court action against Facebook in the U.S. - came to the United Kingdom on a business trip.
Facebook also relied on data from Onavo, a company it acquired in 2013, according to the documents.
In response, Zuckerberg wrote: "Yup, go for it". The app also sent valuable data on what types of apps people were downloading back to Facebook.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote address at F8, Facebook's developer conference in San Jose, California, May 1, 2018.
The emails and other internal Facebook documents from 2012 to 2015 show that Facebook entered into agreements with companies including Airbnb, Lyft, and Netflix allowing those companies special access, the New York Times reports.
Facebook did give preferred access to certain companies like Netflix, which was "whitelisted" to use data not available to everyone.
"Like any business, we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform", Facebook said in an emailed statement. Furthermore, the Facebook app itself would prompt users to opt in to the feature, through a notification referred to by LeBeau as "an in-app opt-in NUX", or new user experience. According to Bloomberg, the California courts sealed the emails, but the United Kingdom compelled the Six4Three founder to hand over a laptop containing the emails, which were acquired during discovery, when the founder visited London.
In a statement, Facebook said the documents had been selectively chosen to be embarrassing and misleading as part of a "baseless" lawsuit.
"In some situations, when necessary, we allowed developers to access a list of the users' friends" but not those friends' private data", it was said.
"The goal of the platform is to tie the universe of all the social apps together so we can enable a lot more sharing and still remain the central hub", he said in an email to several top executives.
In his blog post, Zuckerberg said the company ultimately elected to provide a developer interface for free and to let them optionally buy ads. "We still stand by the platform changes we made in 2014/2015, which prevented people from sharing their friends' information with developers like the creators of Pikinis", the company says in the post. But the day it published, Kwon was apparently chatting with other Facebook staffers about how the company could vacuum up the call logs of its users without the Android operating system getting in the way by asking for the user for specific permission, according to confidential Facebook documents released today by the British Parliament.
While that may not be seen as selling user data directly, revoking competitors' access to that data is one way in which Facebook could weaponize customer information for its own profit.
In one email, dated February 4, 2015, a Facebook engineer said a feature of the Android Facebook app that would "continually upload" a user's call and SMS history would be a "high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective".
Here are the six main things we've learned from the files...