A British lawmaker released a trove of internal Facebook emails, revealing how the social media platform favored certain companies, including Netflix, Airbnb and Lyft, by offering them special access to user data.
Continue Reading Below
Damian Collins, a British Member of Parliament, released 250 pages of emails and findings on Wednesday that examine how Facebook treated user data amid its increasing dominance in the social media market from about 2012 to 2015. He is also the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that’s investigating Facebook.
“Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends Data,” Collins wrote in the report. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.”
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.
But in a blog post, Facebook refuted the report, which it said had been “cherry-picked” as part of a lawsuit designed to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app’s users.
“The documents were selectively leaked to publish some, but not all, of the internal discussions at Facebook at the time of our platform changes,” the company said. “But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”
As far as the “whitelisting,” Facebook noted there’s an “important distinction” between friends’ lists and friends’ data. When necessary, it wrote, it allowed developers to access a list of the users’ friends, including name and profile photo, but “not friends’ private information”.
Officials also debated in emails whether to give app developers that spent money in advertising better access to its data, while simultaneously taking “aggressive positions” against apps that competed with them by denying them access to data.
Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.