Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Internal Facebook Communications Describe Plan to Limit Data Access to Potential Competitors Under the Guise of User Privacy

Katie Paul and Mark Hosenball, Reuters:

One executive, writing in 2013, described dividing apps into “three buckets: existing competitors, possible future competitors, [or] developers that we have alignment with on business models” as part of the project to restrict access to user data, dubbed ‘PS12N’.

Those in the last category were able to regain access by agreeing to make mobile advertising purchases or provide reciprocal user data to Facebook under “Private Extended API Agreements,” according to the emails.

As thousands of developers lost access to user data, the executives decided to announce the changes publicly. They elected to link what they referred to as the “‘bad stuff’ of PS12N” to an unrelated update of the Facebook login system which gave people greater control over their privacy.

Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar, NBC News:

For example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.

Because these are exhibits from just one side of this lawsuit, it’s possible that they do not represent a fuller picture of what Facebook was intending to do. But it is remarkable just how forthcoming Facebook’s staff are about their bald-faced anticompetitive maneuvers. Does it rise to an antitrust court case? I’m not sure; it’s Facebook’s private platform, not an open market. The company seems very happy to walk the line between ruthless and criminal — which, surely, is not an indication of a company behaving ethically and responsibly.

Also, NBC News has inexplicably decided to publish many thousands of pages from hundreds of documents of varying sizes in a single 600 MB PDF.