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Published On: Wed, Apr 17th, 2019

New leaked documents confirm Facebook shared user data with ‘friends’ of Mark Zuckerberg and on a ‘pay for play’ deal

photo/Gerd Altmann

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data, according to about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents largely spanning 2011 to 2015.

One Facebook ally, Amazon, received what NBC described as “extended access” to user data after ponying up cash on Facebook ads and partnering up with the social media giant on the launch of a Fire smartphone. An unnamed messaging app, conversely, was seen as a competitor, and therefore cut off from data.

Facebook ultimately decided not to sell the data directly but rather to dole it out to app developers who were considered personal “friends” of Zuckerberg or who spent money on Facebook and shared their own valuable data, the documents show.

“Facebook gave Amazon extended access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising and partnering with the social network on the launch of its Fire smartphone. In another case, Facebook discussed cutting off access to user data for a messaging app that had grown too popular and was viewed as a competitor, according to the documents,” NBC summarized from the leak.

Private communication between users is “increasingly important,” Zuckerberg said in a 2014 New York Times interview. “Anything we can do that makes people feel more comfortable is really good.”

The documents come from the California lawsuit the app developer company Six4Three has pursued against Facebook for cutting off its access to user data in 2015.

NBC continued:

About 400 of the 4,000 pages of documents have previously beenreported by other media outlets, and also by a member of the British Parliament who has been investigating Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, this cache represents the clearest and most comprehensive picture of Facebook’s activities during a critical period as the company struggled to adapt to the rise of smartphones following its rocky debut as a public company.

The thousands of newly shared documents were anonymously leaked to the British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who shared them with a handful of media organizations: NBC News, Computer Weekly and Süddeutsche Zeitung. Campbell, a founding member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is a computer forensics expert who has worked on international investigations including on offshore banking and big tobacco. The documents appear to be the same ones obtained by Parliament in late 2018 as part of an investigation into Facebook. Facebook did not question the authenticity of the documents NBC News obtained.

photo/ Gerd Altmann

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