Lawmakers Say Facebook Struck Deals Over Personal Data

Frederick Owens
December 5, 2018

"Bulls & Bears" panel on how court documents revealed that Facebook considered charging companies for personal user data.

The emails feature in a case being heard in a California court filed against the giant by the now-defunct U.S. app developer Six4Three.

The documents - which includes internal emails sent by senior executives - were obtained from the chief of a software firm that is suing the tech giant.

Damian Collins, head of the committee, added that Facebook shut off access to data required by competing apps, conducted global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers possibly without their knowledge, and 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.

Facebook, which has described the Six4Three case as baseless, said the released communications are misleading without additional context, but did not elaborate.

As for the DCMS's assertions regarding how the company's "reciprocity" provision and its Onavo VPN app dealt with user data, Facebook points out that users "had the choice" as to whether or not they would opt in and share their data.

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The increased exposure of private data generated more revenue for app developers, and this outcome was the key driver behind the changes made by Facebook. "Like any business, we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform".

Facebook is accused of using this data to assess "not just how many people had downloaded apps, but how often they used them".

Facebook entered into so-called whitelist agreements with companies, granting them access to users' data - even after they made policy changes that restricted access for others, according to The New York Times.

Collins also alleged that Facebook took aggressive positions against competitor apps by denying them access to any user data.

He is also the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that's investigating Facebook. When Twitter launched six-second video clip platform Vine, Zuckerberg approved revoking their access to Facebook's API.

Facebook's staff also discuss "exploring a path" where call log information was requested without asking permission from the phone's owner.

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