Emails written by Facebook’s chief and his deputies show the firm struck secret deals to give some developers special access to user data while refusing others, according to MPs.
A cache of internal documents has been published online by a parliamentary committee.
It said the files also showed Facebook had deliberately made it “as hard as possible” for users to be aware of privacy changes to its Android app.
Facebook had objected to their release.
It said that the documents had been presented in a “very misleading manner” and required additional context.
The emails were obtained from the chief of Six4Three – a software firm that is suing the tech giant – and were disclosed by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its inquiry into fake news.
About 250 pages have been published, some of which are marked “highly confidential”.
Damian Collins MP, the chair of the committee, highlighted several “key issues” in an introductory note.
He wrote that:
- Facebook allowed some companies to maintain “full access” to users’ friends data even after announcing changes to its platform in 2014/2015 to limit what developers’ could see. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted,” Mr Collins wrote
- Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users’ calls and texts would be controversial. “To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features,” Mr Collins wrote
- Facebook used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat
- there was evidence that Facebook’s refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail
- there had been much discussion of the financial value of providing access to friends’ data