Facebook is under fire once again after thousands of documents were leaked that reportedly show the company’s CEO leveraging user data in order to go after competitors.
New documents have been leaked, which reportedly show that while Facebook publicly claimed to be protecting the data of its users, its policy on the inside was the exact opposite.
A new report cites 4,000 documents from the social media giant, which include emails, chat logs and presentations from meetings. It claims that Mark Zuckerberg worked with his management team to tap into Facebook’s trove of user data, and then used it as leverage over other companies.
The data included personal information, relationship details, friend logs and photos from users who had no idea that the material they were sharing with their friends was also being used as a bargaining chip.
According to the report, Zuckerberg and his colleagues used the personal data they were gathering from unsuspecting users differently, when dealing with separate companies.
Because Amazon was paying for advertisements on Facebook, and because Facebook was working with Amazon to launch its Fire Smartphone, Amazon was reportedly given extended access to data from Facebook’s users.
But companies that were seen as competitors received very different treatment, and Facebook executives discussed cutting off user data all together from a messaging app that they believed had become “too popular.”
In 2013, one of Facebook’s engineers noted in a chat that they were essentially grouping apps into buckets based on how scared they were on their success. He said, “So the message is, ‘if you’re going to compete with us at all, make sure you don’t integrate with us at all’?” Another engineer described the strategy as complicated, and a third said, “more than complicated, it’s sort of unethical.”
The documents details communications that took place between 2011 and 2015. They show that while the company was discussing profiting from user data in private, Zuckerberg was publicly insisting that private communications were an important part of the picture, and he even said, “Anything we can do that makes people feel more comfortable is really good.”
Although, Facebook claims that it cut off broad access to user data in 2015, and it alleges that the leaked documents show only selective conversations, the report noted that the documents “represents the clearest and most comprehensive picture of Facebook’s activities during a critical period.”
This may seem like yet another privacy scandal for the social media giant, but it serves as a reminder that when Facebook was at its height, its executives were more concerned about crushing their competition than they were about protecting the privacy of their users.