“If all we want is the ‘data’ that comes off of having a payment platform we can get that information other ways”
A Parliamentary committee has published a cache of Facebook documents seized from an app developer embroiled in a bitter legal clash with the social media company.
Among them, a quote from one 2012 email [p.24] that may come back to haunt CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “I’m generally skeptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think… I think we leak info to developers but I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us.”
Then-VP of product management Sam Lessin writes: “Users are not confronted with exactly what they are giving to apps… this has troubled me greatly.”
Facebook’s lawyers had warned that the sensitive cache is sub judice, or restricted by a US court order; they say publication would constitute contempt of court.
Parliamentary privilege gives lawmakers legal cover to make the move.
The documents can be seen here.
See background: Parliament Seizes Explosive Facebook Documents – at Sword Point?
The documents, including internal emails, were published on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee website. They represent a compelling insight into a company struggling with how much information and access it should offer to third-party developers at what price point, along with broader monetisation strategy.
Chairman Damian Collins MP defended their release.
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.
— Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) December 5, 2018
A Facebook spokesman said: “As we’ve said many times before, 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. We stand by the changes we made in 2015 to stop a person sharing their friends’ data with developers. Like any business we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform. But the facts are clear – we’ve never sold people’s data.”
Facebook responds… pic.twitter.com/yyo3Cvzxq5
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) December 5, 2018
The documents demonstrate a company having significant internal conversations about how to best interact – and monetise that interaction – with challengers and developers.
One email from Sam Lessin reads: “Basically my view is that we should only develop payments APIs if we have a reasonable belief that we are going to be able to provide better payments APIs than competitors (more cost competitive, etc.) Same with an ad-network… valid things for us, but they have nothing/little to do structurall with being an information platform directyly when presumably if all we want is the ‘data’ that comes off of having a payment platform we can get that information other ways.”
He added: “Overall, I’m just pretty optimistic about this idea of being an “identity” service and establishing that as a layer of the app development stack so the norm is that developers pay for it. Maybe identity comes with the ability to push content to a person’s friends, or maybe it just comes with the ability to ramp up a user more quickly.”