Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leveraged user data as 'bargaining chip' against rivals

Facebook rewarded companies that it favoured by giving them access to the data of its users.

Facebook's executive team, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, used data on Facebook users as leverage over partner companies.

The social media giant that just doesn't seem to evade headlines, granted access to its treasure trove of user data to its partners and denied it to competitors and rival apps.

The findings were a part of 4,000 pages of internal Facebook documents from 2011 to 2015, leaked to reporters at NBC News, illuminating just how shady Facebook's approach has been over the years, in sharing and selling personal user data.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image: Reuters

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image: Reuters

The documents obtained by NBC from a British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, include emails, web chats, presentations, spreadsheets, and meeting summaries which show how Facebook would reward favoured companies by giving them greater access to user data. Rival companies were denied the same access.

According to the documents, Facebook gave Amazon extended access to user data as it was spending a large amount of money on Facebook advertising and partnering with Facebook when launching its Fire smartphone.

The documents also highlighted that when a messaging app became popular and threatened Facebook’s own messenger app, the social media giant discussed cutting off the app’s access to user data.

The documents come from a previously reported trove of data obtained by UK Parliament from a startup called 'Six4Three' which sued Facebook in 2015. This was after Facebook told the startup that they would be cutting off the startup’s access to some types of user data.

Commenting on the documents, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal, told NBC News, “As we’ve said many times, Six4Three — creators of the Pikinis app — cherry-picked these documents from years ago as part of a lawsuit to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app’s users.”

However, nobody from Facebook has thus far provided any additional evidence to support the the claim of "cherry-picking".

Back in March this year, Zuckerberg said that Facebook would put more focus on privacy, viewing it as the social network's future.

The leaked documents basically show that for Facebook, privacy seems to be more of a public relations ploy than a concern about its users.

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