Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facebook Shared User Data With High-Spending Advertisers, and Repeatedly Proposed Selling Data

Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar, NBC News:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data, according to about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents largely spanning 2011 to 2015 and obtained by NBC News.

The documents, which include emails, webchats, presentations, spreadsheets and meeting summaries, show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook’s trove of user data — including information about friends, relationships and photos — as leverage over companies it partnered with.

In some cases, Facebook would reward favored companies by giving them access to the data of its users. In other cases, it would deny user-data access to rival companies or apps.

The litigation that surfaced these documents concerns a creepy app that allowed users to find friends’ bikini pictures. The app’s ability to use friends’ photo albums was terminated by Facebook not necessarily because it violated a developer agreement or because it’s very gross but, according to these documents, for Facebook’s own power and control purposes.

That is just one of several ways Facebook demonstrated an appalling understanding of its own ethical obligations. Executives discussed plans to sell access to user data, and even gave extended data to highly-valuable advertisers. Posts that users marked as visible only to them were, in some cases, available to third-party apps.

I don’t like the idea of a company strip-mining its users’ every move in the digital and physical worlds to create profiles of information against which shitty ads are sold; but, if that is something that anyone still thinks has societal benefits, let’s all agree that the company should ensure that users have control over how their information is shared further.