Nearly 250 Pages of Devastating Internal Facebook Documents Posted Online By UK Parliament
Image: Jason Koebler
Facebook really didn’t want this to happen. On Wednesday, a British politician who has been highly critical of the social media giant publicly dumped a huge cache of sensitive internal Facebook documentsfor anyone to download and read.
The documents include details on the distribution of Facebook’s various apps; how the company worked very closely with some app developers to grant them access to user data, and how the company specifically incentivizes sharing on the platform in order to feed that data back to advertisers. They also include information about how the company tried to hide and downplay the amount of data that it collected from the Android version of the Facebook app.
The documents also include emails between top company executives, including COO Sheryl Sandberg and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“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,” a summary of the documents written by Damian Collins, Conversative MP and Chairman of the Digital Culture, Media and Science Committee who published the documents, reads. “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.”
The news signals an escalation in the fallout around Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica and data sharing scandals, which have irked European politicians in particular.
Collins tweeted a link to the documents, which are hosted on Parliament’s official website.
“I believe there is considerable public interest in releasing these documents. They raise important questions about how Facebook treats users data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market,” Collins tweeted.
Collins obtained the documents in a rather unusual way. As Buzzfeed News recently reported, Ted Kramer, managing director of a company called Six4Three which has used Facebook data in the past, is suing Facebook in California, and Kramer was given the sealed documents as part of discovery in that case. Kramer then traveled to the UK in possession of the documents, and was met with an obscure UK legal power, demanding he hand them over to Collins’ Committee.
A Facebook spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement "As we've said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for their baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context."
Update: This piece has been updated to include comment from Facebook.