Facebook e-mails reveal Zuckerberg deliberations on user data

The UK Houses of Parliament on the bank of the Thames in bright sunlight

Facebook's seized files published by MPs

"Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data", wrote MP Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

In a summary of key issues pertaining to the documents, the committee said Facebook "whitelisted", or made exceptions for companies such as Airbnb and Netflix, that gave them continued access to users' "friends" even after the tech giant announced changes in 2015 to end the practice.

The release covers 250 pages including the MPs' summary and exhibits including emails from figures including Mark Zuckerberg and internal Facebook documents.

A memo similarly describes reciprocity as "an equable value exchange between a third-party developer and Facebook", involving "high-quality experiences" for Facebook users or direct payments "in return" for "access to out Platform".

Mr Zuckerberg responded: "Yup, go for it". "We explored multiple ways to build a sustainable business with developers who were building apps that were useful to people", the company said in a statement.

He also said that a change to Facebook's Android app policy that resulted in call and message data being recorded was deliberately made hard for users to know about. This proved highly controversial when revealed in press accounts and by individuals posting on Twitter after receiving data Facebook had collected on them; Facebook insisted it had obtained permission for the phone log and text massage collection, but some users and journalists said it had not. The documents are part of a USA lawsuit filed against Facebook by California app developer Six4Three.

"We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents", said Collins in a Twitter post accompanying the published emails. 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.

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. Rather than letting devs pay a one time fee to fetch data, we could effectively do this by mandating that devs must keep data fresh and update their data each month for anything they call. The app also sent valuable data on what types of apps people were downloading back to Facebook. This information was used to suss out potential companies to acquire. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of USA software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London. The idea of tying access to this data to the developer's relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature throughout the documents. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not".

"Sometimes the best way to enable people to share something is to have a developer build a special goal app or network for that type of content and to make that app social by having Facebook plug into it", Zuckerberg wrote in 2012. "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.

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