Facebook’s seized files published by MPs

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The UK parliament’s fake news inquiry has published a cache of seized Facebook documents.

The correspondence, which includes internal emails sent between Mark Zuckerberg and the social network’s staff, were obtained from the chief of a software firm that is suing the tech giant.

About 250 pages have been published, some of which are marked “highly confidential”.

Facebook had objected to their release.

Damian Collins MP, the chair of the parliamentary committee involved, highlighted several “key issues” in an introductory note.

He wrote that:

  • Facebook allowed some companies to maintain “full access” to users’ friends data even after announcing changes to its platform in 2014/2015 to limit what developers’ could see. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted,” Mr Collins wrote
  • Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users’ calls and texts would be controversial. “To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features,” Mr Collins wrote
  • Facebook used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat
  • there was evidence that Facebook’s refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail
  • there had been much discussion of the financial value of providing access to friends’ data

In response, Facebook has said that the documents had been presented in a “very misleading manner” and required additional context.

“We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers,” said a spokeswoman.

“Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform.

“But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”

More to follow

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