Published: Thu, December 06, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Facebook internal emails published: what the new documents reveal

Facebook internal emails published: what the new documents reveal

"We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends' data with developers".

In one e-mail 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.

The documents also show that Facebook has in the past aggressively tried to shut down the competition.

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. The materials had been under seal in the United States as part of a lawsuit in California with an app developer.

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"(The documents) raise important questions about how Facebook treats users' data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market", he said. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not", Mr. Collins said.

"We changed our platform policies in 2014/15 to prevent apps from requesting permission to access friends' private information", said a Facebook spokesperson referring to the whitelisting allegation.

Not all of the documents seized by the committee investigating fake news have been published. In most of the e-mails, Zuckerberg was concerned about what data different apps could expect to access, why his company should allow that access, what the benefit to Facebook was, and how the social network should think about rivals and competitors. "We blocked a lot of sketchy apps".

In a response posted on its blog, Facebook said that whitelists are a common part of testing new features with a limited group of partners before a broader rollout.

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Facebook used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public.

You can check out the full 250-page document dump including the DCMS's summary at the United Kingdom parliament's website. Alerted to the possible competitive threat by an engineer who recommended cutting off Vine's access to Facebook data, Zuckerberg replied succinctly: "Yup, go for it".

"Another idea is charging different developers different rates for things". One email talked about giving Royal Bank the same "extended [access] agreement" as Netflix.

Critics have drawn attention to this kind of behavior as being potentially in violation of U.S. and European antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, as the dominant Facebook platform can arguably be seen blocking competitors attempts to enter its market. Android users rely on standard, clear dialogs from the operating system to inform them of serious changes in privacy. The good news about full reciprocity [where apps let users share their activity back to Facebook] is that for bigger social companies we might otherwise be anxious about, if they're enabling their users to push all of their social content back into Facebook then we're probably fine with them.

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"Why let someone like Pinterest or Path read all our data, create a separate standalone app, and then use our paid distribution to compensate us?" This would be a momentous decision for any company, to say nothing of one with Facebook's privacy track record and reputation, even in 2015, of sprinting through ethical minefields. The social network itself received data about how people were using third party apps in return.

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