Facebook accused of giving access to users’ data

Facebook gave some companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, preferential access to user data in 2015 as it limited services for most others, according to company emails and presentations released by a British lawmaker.

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

-Mark Zuckerberg wanted "full reciprocity" between Facebook and app developers i.e. you share all your data on users with us, and we'll share all of ours with you.

The documents are thought to contain emails from Mark Zuckerberg. Motherboard calls the almost 250 pages of documents "devastating" for Facebook, but the company says in a statement that the documents were gathered as part of a "baseless case" and "are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context".

Here are the key details to emerge from the release of the e-mails. That may be technically correct in this instance, however while the company might not have directly traded data for dollars, the emails make a compelling argument that the same outcome was achieved - just with a few extra steps in between.

In one of the emails from 2013, it shows how Facebook handled the launch of Vine, a six-second video sharing app that would become extremely popular and was shuttered in 2017. In 2015, Facebook staff discussed "a feature that lets you continuously upload your SMS and call log history to Facebook to be used for improving things like [People You May Know, a friend recommendation feature], coefficient calculation, feed ranking, etc".

"It is clear that increasing revenues from major app developers was one of the key drivers behind the Platform 3.0 changes at Facebook", Collins added. But even if the Facebook app still sought permission to share call logs, such in-app notices are generally designed expressly to get the user to consent and are easy to miss or misinterpret. In some cases, the ability to tap into those data sets was dependent on financial considerations.

Why is a British lawmaker going after Facebook like this?

Six4Three's founder, Ted Kramer, had obtained them as part of a legal discovery process in a US lawsuit against Facebook that his company has brought against the social network in California. The materials had been under seal in the United States as part of a lawsuit in California with an app developer. Facebook denies all allegations made by the committee.

"Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy whose vice president was Republican strategist Steve Bannon, gained access to data on 87 million users in ways that Facebook has said was improper but resembled a common practice at the time among app developers", the Post reports. The Intercept has asked both Facebook and Kwon personally about what context is missing here, if any, and will update with their response.

Google has also fallen afoul of antitrust laws in 2018, with the European Commission fining the tech giant US$5 billion for anti-competitive behavior in regards to its Android mobile operating system and the apps it uses by default. "Pikinis didn't receive an extension, and they went to court".

Vanessa Coleman

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