British Parliament has published a cache of secret Facebook documents which it obtained last month from a company suing the social network.
A redacted version of the papers was pushed live on the website of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating Facebook’s privacy standards as part of an inquiry into fake news.
Damian Collins, a Conservative politician and chair of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, prefaced the papers with a summary of what he sees as some of the most explosive revelations. These included:
- Facebook entering “whitelisting agreements” with companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, giving them access to friends data after Facebook introduced new privacy policies in 2014/15.
- Collins said a recurring theme of the papers is the “idea of linking access to friends data to the financial value of the [app] developers’ relationship with Facebook.”
- They show Facebook “taking aggressive positions against apps,” Collins said. This included email evidence showing Mark Zuckerberg personally approved a decision to deny access to data for the now-defunct Twitter video-looping app, Vine.
- Facebook made it difficult for users to know about changes it made to its Android app because they were controversial. The changes enabled Facebook to collect a record of calls and texts sent by users.
Collins obtained the documents from Ted Kramer, the founder of a software company called Six4Three, while Kramer was on business in the UK last month.
Six4Three is suing Facebook for killing its business — specifically, an app named Pikinis that surfaced images of people’s Facebook friends in their swimwear — when the social network tightened up its privacy policies in 2015.
A California court order had placed the documents under seal, but the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published under UK parliamentary privilege, believing them to be in the public interest.
A Facebook spokesman said: “As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for their baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.
“We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. Like any business, we had many of 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.”