Facebook considered selling access to user data: report

Facebook once considered charging companies for continued access to user data.

That’s according to internal emails detailed in an unredacted court document viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

That practice would have been a dramatic shift away from the social-media giant's policy of not selling that information.

The emails in the document also indicate that Facebook employees discussed pushing some advertisers to spend more in return for increased access to user information.

Taken together, the internal emails show the company discussing how to monetize its user data in ways that are employed by some other tech firms, but that Facebook has said it doesn't do.

At a congressional hearing in April, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said, "I can't be clearer on this topic: We don't sell data."

The emails -- most from about 2012 to 2014 -- are far from conclusive, lacking context and in some cases truncated. But they provide a window into mostly sealed court filings -- which a British lawmaker has pledged to make public next week -- from a lawsuit against Facebook filed by a company called Six4Three LLC.

The emails also illustrate how Facebook has long grappled with how to maximize the value of the vast amounts of data it collects without abusing the privacy of users.

The Wall Street Journal viewed three pages of unredacted material from one 18-page document that showed portions of some internal emails.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the discussions about charging for data and said the company ultimately decided against it.

Consumers and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic are trying to understand how Facebook uses the data of its 2.27 billion monthly users.

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny in the past year for its practices of sharing user data, particularly after the company revealed earlier this year that analytics firm Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained personal data of millions of users.