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Internal Facebook E-mails Unveil Social Network's Controversial Practices

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Facebook internal e-mails sent between 2012 and 2015 revealed that the social media giant engaged in controversial practices. The UK parliament released the correspondence, which was disclosed by Facebook as part of a lawsuit  ( William Iven | Pixabay )

Facebook internal emails released by the UK parliament have revealed what appear as controversial business practices employed by the social media giant.

Correspondence Disclosed As Part Of A Lawsuit

The House of Commons digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee obtained the e-mails last month after these were disclosed by Facebook as part of a lawsuit that software developer Six4Three filed against the social media company.

Six4Three sued Facebook in 2015 over claims that the data policies of the social network favored some companies over others.

About 250 pages of these correspondence sent between 2012 and 2015 have been published, some of which were marked "highly confidential."

Controversial Practices

The e-mails showed Facebook staff, which include the company's executive Mark Zuckerberg discussing trading access to user data for revenue, trademarks, or cash payments.

Some e-mails also revealed that Facebook discussed cutting off access to its rival companies and giving app developers who purchased advertising special access to data. The company also provided access to app developers that encouraged users to spend more time on Facebook.

In introductory notes, Damian Collins, who chairs of the parliamentary committee, highlighted several key issues:

Facebook continued to allow some companies to have full access to data on users' friends even after it had announced changes to limit what developers could see. It offered continued access to these data to companies that include Lyft, Airbnb, and Netflix.

The social media was aware an update to its Android app that allowed it to collect records of its users' calls and texts would be controversial.

Facebook used data provided by Onavo, an Israeli analytics firm, to determine the mobile apps that the public downloaded and used. It then used the knowledge in decisions over which apps to acquire or consider a threat.

Facebook's Response

Facebook objected the release of the e-mails and said that the documents were presented in a misleading manner and needed additional context.

"Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform," a Facebook spokeswoman said. "But the facts are clear: we've never sold people's data."

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