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Facebook discussed charging companies for access to user data: Report

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hearing Congress SenateAP

  • Facebook
    emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show executives
    discussing charging and cutting deals with companies to allow
    them access to Facebook user data.
  • The emails offer insight into Facebook’s efforts to
    monetize its vast trove of user data, highlighting how Facebook
    executives talked about pushing advertisers to spend more in
    return for access to user information.
  • Facebook, in response to the report, said it has “never
    sold anyone’s data.”
  • The emails are one part of a cache of Facebook
    documents from an ongoing lawsuit against Facebook in
    California.

Facebook discussed charging and cutting deals with companies for
access to the data of its two billion users, according to internal emails
reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The emails, secured from a cache of Facebook documents that form
part of a lawsuit against the company in California, reportedly
reveal Facebook executives talking about pushing advertisers to
spend more in return for profile information on Facebook users.

One unnamed Facebook employee suggested shutting down data access
“in one-go to all apps that don’t spend… at least $250k a year to
maintain access to the data,” according to the report. The
Journal did not review the full content of the email, however.

In another email exchange, Facebook insiders reportedly talked
about settling a trademark issue with Match Group’s dating app
Tinder in exchange for continued access to Facebook data. The
matter was later resolved, but not through a data deal, the two
firms told the Journal.

The emails, dated between 2012 and 2014, offer a window into
Facebook’s activities after its IPO in 2012, when it was
grappling with ways of wringing value out of its treasure trove
of personal data. Facebook has always insisted that it does not
sell user information.

“To be clear, Facebook has never sold anyone’s data,”
Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer
platforms and programs, said in a statement.

The emails reviewed by the Journal are contained in documents
seized by British Parliament last week. They form part of a
lawsuit brought by Six4Three against Facebook for killing its
app, Pikinis, when the social network restricted app developers’
access to user data in 2015.


Read more: Potentially explosive Facebook
documents will be published by a fake news committee ‘within the
next week’


The documents are under the seal of a California court order, but
the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee plans to
publish a redacted version of the papers next week, believing
them to be in the public interest.

Led by lawmaker Damian Collins, the Digital, Culture, Media and
Sport Committee cast light on the documents’ contents during a
hearing on Tuesday. This included details on Facebook allegedly
pushing advertisers to spend more in return for access to
Facebook data.

During the hearing, British MP Clive Efford asked Facebook policy
chief Richard Allan whether apps were given a favorable
white-listing agreement in exchange for being able “to buy large
quantities of mobile advertising through Facebook.” Allan denied
this and discredited the court documents, saying they were
obtained by a “hostile litigant.”

In a statement sent to Business Insider, Facebook’s Papamiltiadis
said:

“As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for
this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented
in a way that is very misleading without additional context.
Evidence has been sealed by a California court so we are not able
to disprove every false accusation.

“That said, we stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to
stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers.
Any short-term extensions granted during this platform transition
were to prevent the changes from breaking user experience.

“To be clear, Facebook has never sold anyone’s data. Our APIs
have always been free of charge and we have never required
developers to pay for using them, either directly or by buying
advertising.”

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