British lawmaker releases Facebook’s seized internal documents

By Anuj Sharma - December 6, 2018
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The emails are part of a lawsuit that app developer Six4Three brought against Facebook in November and were seized by British lawmakers in connection with the UK Parliament's inquiry into disinformati....

Damian Collins, a British lawmaker, has released a chunk of confidential documents and emails exchanged between Facebook and other tech companies that raise concerns on how the social media giant treats user data and their policies for working with app developers.

'We don’t feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents,' Collins added.

The emails, around 250 pages, also include a summary of six 'key issues', including the company's use of 'white lists' to let some companies retain access to Facebook user data despite changes made to the platform in 2014 and 2015.

According to Facebook, the extensions granted at that time were short-term and only used to prevent people from losing access to specific functions, as developers updated their apps. Six4Three’s Pikinis app didn’t receive an extension, and they went to court.

'As we’ve said many times, Six4Three – creators of the Pikinis app – cherrypicked these documents from years ago as part of a lawsuit to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app’s users. The set of documents, by design, tells only one side of the story and omits important context. We still stand by the platform changes we made in 2014/2015, which prevented people from sharing their friends’ information with developers like the creators of Pikinis,' Facebook said in a statement.

Six4Three is suing Facebook for disconnecting its access to Facebook user data.

Facebook's handling of user data became a hot news earlier this year in March when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, gained access to user data of over 87 million accounts via a personality quiz app.

Facebook also received a lot of criticism when it acquired Onavo, an app that collects information about app usage to gain insights into the products and services that people value. With Onavo, Facebook monitored competitors and strategically denied other apps access to user data.

'We’ve always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used, including by Facebook. We let people know before they download the app on the first screen they see after installing it. Also, people can opt-out via the control in their settings, and their data won’t be used for anything other than to provide, improve and develop Onavo products and services,' Facebook said in a statement to defend itself.  

'Like any organisation, we had a lot of internal discussion and people raised different ideas. To be clear, that's different from selling people's data. We've never sold anyone's data,' added Facebook.

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