The UK Government published a damning report on Facebook’s attitude to customer data, accusing executives of making it difficult for users to uncover the collection of personal information in a 2015 Android app update in order to mitigate any bad publicity.
Alongside the report, the UK Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport released a number of internal emails between Facebook executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg (pictured), dubbed the Six4Three files.
The emails reveal Zuckerberg held a number of conversations linking revenue to customer data and on the social network company’s policies relating to both partner and rival apps.
Damian Collins, MP and chair of the parliamentary committee assessing the evidence, said: “Facebook knew that the changes to its policies on the Android mobile phone system, which enabled the Facebook app to collect a record of calls and texts sent by the user, would be controversial.”
“To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard of possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app,” he added.
Among the other accusations were aggressive tactics toward competitors’ apps. The report stated by denying some apps full access to Facebook’s platform the businesses ended up failing.
MPs also believe the company used one if its own apps, Onavo, to conduct global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers without gaining user consent.
Zuckerberg, who refused to attend UK parliamentary hearings following the well-documented Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, played down the latest revelations in a post on his own Facebook page.
In the statement, he said the emails were “only part of the discussions”. He noted the company implemented changes in 2014 to ensure “a lot of sketchy apps – like the quiz app that sold data to Cambridge Analytica – could no longer operate on our platform.”
On the use of data, he added: “Like any organisation, we had a lot of internal discussion and people raised different ideas. Ultimately, we decided on a model where we continued to provide the developer platform for free and developers could choose to buy ads if they wanted. This model has worked well.”
“To be clear, that’s different from selling people’s data. We’ve never sold anyone’s data.”