Facebook considered selling users’ personal data
While Facebook’s relationship with users’ personal data has been rather rocky recently, the discovery of new documents shows that it could have been even more iffy.In 2012, it has been revealed, the social media giant considered selling this data to several companies.
In public documents from a Californian court, available as part of the ongoing Six4Three lawsuit, Facebook is shown positing a potential $250,000 (£195,000) cost for companies to access its Graph API. This information was redacted, but Ars Technica discovered it could be viewed simply by importing the document into text editing software.
The document suggests companies such as Netflix, Airbnb and Lyft viewed the first version of the Graph API, although a Facebook spokesperson stated that only Nissan and the Royal Bank of Canada actually accessed it.
Graph API is Facebook’s application programming interface, and access to it allows companies to survey user data, chart post interaction and manage Facebook pages.
Facebook’s documents have come to light in the midst of the ongoing Six4Three lawsuit. Six4Three created a classy-sounding app that finds and presents users bikini pictures of their contacts, and in 2014 Facebook revoked its access to Graph API. The company is now suing Facebook, and the legal proceedings have more twists and turns than a season of Game of Thrones.
On 26 Monday Ted Kramer, Six4Three’s founder, was obliged to hand over the aforementioned confidential documents to the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, while on a business trip to the country. These documents had been ordered sealed by the Californian court overseeing the proceedings, although that sealing only applies in the US. Recently, UK lawmakers have stepped up efforts to hold Facebook accountable for its various alleged wrongdoings.
Previously, Six4Three alleged Facebook used its apps to track users and friends of users, including those who didn’t use Facebook. When The Guardian investigated these claims it found the apps logged text messages without informing the user.
The lawsuit is proving a goldmine for revelations about Facebook’s dealings — even if the company didn’t outright sell access to user data eight years ago, the documents show Facebook has been considering monetising its wealth of data for a long time. Social media users are considerably more data-conscious now than they were eight years ago (thanks in no small part to Facebook’s own Cambridge Analytica debacle), and since the company has a long way to go before it has weathered the storm of public opinion, it can’t be happy that historic offences like this have come to light.
However, perhaps the most alarming revelation these documents show up is that one of the world’s leading tech companies doesn’t know how to effectively redact documents. Oops.
Image: geralt used under Creative Commons.