Facebook CEO denies selling user data to third-party developers

Mark Zuckerberg addresses a conference

Mark Zuckerberg addresses a conference

Facebook has been accused of striking secret deals with app developers to allow them access to user data and mining user devices to information about third-party app use. Facebook has insisted that it has never sold user data - but one of the revelations from the documents is that the company discussed the possibility of charging for access to it. According to some confidential emails released by the British Parliament on Wednesday, the company had knowingly made a decision to collect sensitive user data without their consent. The emails were obtained by Six4Three as part of its ongoing lawsuit against Facebook. The 250 pages of documents were published as part of an investigation into Facebook's data-sharing, Adweek reported.

The cutthroat tactics deployed by Facebook in its early years as a public company, and detailed in the newly released documents, caught up with the social media giant this year.

The internal emails give a peek into Zuckerberg and his employees' attitudes, including how a decision by Zuckerberg paved the way for political data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

An email chain has also revealed that the team of developers working on the feature knew that the permissions screen would be a point of friction, one that they wanted to avoid. According to an email written by exec Sam Lessin in 2012 addressed to Zuckerberg, it's not one rival site or app - it's lots of them. This affected most developers who they limited their ability to request user's friend's list but in a few cases, "when necessary, we allowed developers to access a list of the users' friends". Zuckerberg's private statements appear to contradict a stance he had long maintained publicly, that app developers' access was open and free.

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Facebook is in another controversy after it had tightened rules on its privacy rules. The documents released by the United Kingdom parliamentarians suggested that Facebook executives, including founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, linked access to user data to the financial value of a developer's relations with Facebook. "Like any business, we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform".

But privacy did not appear to figure heavily into the executives' discussions or into Zuckerberg's own emails. These included Airbnb, Netflix, and Lyft. Executives also used a free app that Facebook had acquired, called Onavo Protect, to monitor how frequently consumers were logging into potentially competitive services, such as the live video-streaming app Vine. "Yup, go for it", Zuckerberg replied. Apparently, the company planned to push out an Android update which would allow it to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permission dialog. Zuckerberg did not tell Congress about the company's whitelisting when he testified in April, but subsequent reports have exposed privileged relationships brokered by Facebook. It's going to actually let selected apps go ahead and bypass our new rule system. Ron Wyden (D) of OR, said in a statement. "So ultimately, I think the objective of platform - even the read side is to increase sharing back into Facebook", he wrote.

Facebook said that users were asked to opt-in to sharing data about their call and text logs. Problem: the operation does not seem to plan to ask their permission to the users concerned.

There's "pretty clear documentation that they had a new setting to say, 'don't share my new data with whatever crap app my friends installed, ' and then they went into agreement with a bunch of apps to get them that data", said Brookman, who previously served as a top tech aide at the agency.

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