Facebook Mulled Charging For User Data Access

Court documents have revealed that Facebook has considered charging companies for ongoing access to user data.

The Wall Street Journal viewed internal emails that showed Facebook employees had discussed pushing some advertisers to spend more in return for more access to user data.

An unidentified Facebook employee suggested shutting down data access “in one-go to all apps that don’t spend… at least $250k a year to maintain access to the data,” according to one email. However, the full content of the message wasn’t included in the court documents.

The email exchanges also revealed employees discussing how much data access is given to companies such as Amazon, Tinder and the Royal Bank of Canada.

The news is a departure from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s previous declaration that the social media site simply doesn’t sell data.

The emails — which span 2012 to 2014 — are from a lawsuit against Facebook filed by Six4Three LLC, the developer of a now-defunct app. The company sued Facebook in 2015 over data policies it claimed were anti-competitive and favored specific companies. The majority of the documents filed in the case have been placed under seal.

But this week, British lawmaker Damian Collins, chairman of the House of Commons Digital, Media, Culture and Sport Committee, said he is going to release the documents he obtained from the lawsuit once personal information has been redacted. Collins has been a vocal critic of the social media giant.

And he’s not the only one: Facebook has been under fire since it was discovered that up to 87 million of its users had their data shared with controversial research firm Cambridge Analytica. As a result, the scandal is being investigated by the SEC, the FBI and the Justice Department.

Zuckerberg was also called to testify on Capitol Hill, where he was grilled on fake news, Russian infiltration of the American election system, monopolistic business practices, racial targeting, mayhem broadcast live on its platform, hate speech, cyber bullying, data privacy and genocide in Myanmar.

“We have made a lot of mistakes in running the company. It is impossible to start a company in your dorm room without making mistakes,” Zuckerberg said of the errors made during the “move fast and break stuff era.” “Overall, I would say we’re going through a broader philosophical shift,” he said.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg continued. “And that goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”


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