According to internal messages leaked from Facebook earlier this month, top-level employees strategised about how they could leverage the vast quantity of user data Facebook controls in order to limit or disadvantage companies which they perceive as threats, including YouTube, Twitter and Amazon.
Although Facebook does not sell user data, it does share some of that data with other apps which integrate into Facebook, or which people can log into with their Facebook accounts.
Based on the leaks though, Facebook employees discussed plans to restrict access to the data for competing products, even in cases where the apps had already been approved to access the relevant Facebook data.
Taken Out Of Context
Facebook responded to the leak by stating that the documents were old, and “taken out of context by somebody with an agenda against Facebook.”
The documents also showed that Facebook explored selectively blacklisting certain apps in order to stunt competitor growth, a practice of theirs which was the focus of an NBC News report earlier this year.
Other documents included a decision to restrict Amazon access to Facebook user data because their wishlist was seen as competitor for the Facebook Gifts app, and a plan to blacklist Twitter from seeing user friends lists, something it had already done to YouTube.
Privacy An Afterthought
Although user privacy was often the excuse that Facebook would give for denying access or restricting data, in other documents a special agreement with Apple was mentioned, which gave them increased access to data. Another employee wrote, “My concern is around the perception that we can’t hold our story together. We’re going all-in on the user trust message as our reasoning for doing the v4 shakeup and it’d be sad [if they] clearly pointed out that there was an easy and obvious workaround on iOS.”
Embroiled in committees and investigations on many fronts regarding their business practices, Facebook has certainly been facing a troubling few years, with many questions being asked about it’s commitment to privacy, and its treatment of user data. Although up from a low at the beginning of the year, the share price has fluctuated in the face of the many scandals, and the future of the company, and indeed all big online media platforms, faces uncertain times in the regulatory sphere.