Facebook used user data as a weapon against rivals, offered it up as a sop to friends: Report

A trove of 7,000 pages of leaked documents shows exactly how Facebook leveraged user data against rivals.


In April, it was reported that Facebook’s executive team misused user data to control competitors by using the data as a bargaining chip. This was apparently done under the supervision of the company CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and there are thousands of leaked documents to support this claim.

Facebook used user data as a weapon against rivals, offered it up as a sop to friends: Report

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Reuters

NBC News has published an entire lot of documents that comprise 7,000 pages including 4,000 internal communications such as emails, web chats, notes, presentations, spreadsheets on Facebook. From the total, around 1,200 of them were “highly confidential”. All of these documents range between 2011 and 2015.

The documents were originally obtained by NBC from British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, which shows how Facebook would reward favoured companies by giving them greater access to user data. Rival companies were denied the same access.

The documents come from a previously reported trove of data obtained by the 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.

The PDFs of leaked documents include depositions, emails, presentations, and other pages from Six4Three’s lawsuit. They have been published by NBC and you can view them from the following links:

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.

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 claim of "cherry-picking".

When Facebook took away access to detailed information with the startup, Six4Three claimed that it couldn't do business anymore. Other apps including Lulu, Beehive ID, and Rosa Bandet also suffered the same fate after losing access.

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.