Once again, controversial social media giant Facebook has become a point of accusation. According to documents released on Wednesday by aBritish lawmaker, Facebook offers companies such as Netflix and Airbnb, accessto data on users’ list of friends that it cut off for most apps in 2015. It also said that Facebook dodged questions regarding market dominance and privacy practices.
The documents included 223 pages of internal communication from 2012 to 2015 between high-level employees, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, providing new evidence and political scrutiny of earlier aired contentions that the company has selected its favorites and maintained an anti-competitive behavior. However, the documents revealed that Facebook tracked competitors’ progress and denied access to user data offered to others.
According to the documents, Facebook categorized around 100apps in 2014 as ‘Mark’s friends’ and Sheryl’s friends’ referring to Zuckerbergand Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer. Further, it trackednumber of apps spending money on Facebook ads.
As reported in Reuters, insights into strategies of company’sexecutives during that period could invite a new regulatory inspection on itsbusiness practices. Facebook said it stood by previously made decisions and deliberations, but noted it would remove an out-of-date policy that restricted competitors’ access to its data. One of the documents said that these competitor apps would previously require Zuckerberg’s approval prior to using tools Facebook makes available to app developers.
Damian Collins, a Conservative British parliamentarian and leader of a committee on media and culture, made the internal documents public after it seized from the app developer Six4Three, a defunct search app for bikini pictures. The app developer had accused Facebook of deceptive anti-competitive business practices and acquired the files as part of a U.S. lawsuit.
The documents are under seal and redacted in the lawsuit.
Whitelisted Apps to Friends Data
Collins said that the documents needed public attention as they raised several questions on Facebook’s way of treating users’ data, working with app developers, and maintaining a dominant position in the social media market.
The documents showed list of companies ‘whitelisted’ for access to data on users’ friends which included dating app ‘Badoo’ and ride-hailing app ‘Lyft’.
According to an email, the ride-hailing app wanted to show carpool rides their mutual friends as an ‘ice breaker, even though the friends were using the app. In an email, Facebook said it approved the request as it would add a feeling of safety for riders. Such deals, are short-term extensions, but it is not clear exactly when various agreements ended. Netflix and Airbnb as well as Lyft and Badoo did not immediately respond to request for comment.