The conversation centered around an internal push to change which data Facebook's Android app had access to, to grant the software the ability to record a user's text messages and call history, to interact with bluetooth beacons installed by physical stores, and to offer better customized friend suggestions and news feed rankings.
A cache of internal Facebook documents released by a United Kingdom member of Parliament show how CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives wrestled with how to monetize their valuable user data while still encouraging third-party apps to post user activity on Facebook.
As Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Wednesday blog post, the company limited access to data to "prevent abusive apps" starting in 2014.
-Friends' data has been a big source of revenue for Facebook, thanks to growing revenues from app developers.
Damian Collins, head of the committee, added that Facebook shut off access to data required by competing apps, conducted global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers possibly without their knowledge, and that a change to Facebook's Android app policy that resulted in call and message data being recorded was deliberately made hard for users to know about.
"We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents", Collins said on Twitter.
Critics have drawn attention to this kind of behavior as being potentially in violation of U.S. and European antitrust and anti-monopoly laws, as the dominant Facebook platform can arguably be seen blocking competitors attempts to enter its market. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not", Mr. Collins said.
There were four other areas that Collins expressed concerns over ranging from the valuation of friends' data to increase FB revenues to using data collected from the Onavo VPN app. Facebook had "explanations" for them all and maintains that Six4Three only selected "some, but not all" documents and discussion in these matters. The materials had been under seal in the United States as part of a lawsuit in California with an app developer. He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of US software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London.
In Britain, Zuckerberg and his leadership team are under fierce scrutiny since revelations that one developer, Cambridge Analytica, allegedly abused access to information about up to 87 million people on Facebook.
For instance, in 2013, the Royal Bank of Canada wanted to launch a new payments app, which would get more people signed up if the bank could tap into friends' lists on Facebook.
"These developers do not want to participate in the ecosystem we have created, but rather build their own ecosystem at the expense of our users, other developers and, of course, us".
In a later statement emailed to Fast Company, the company cautioned that some of the documents, which were originally turned over in a California lawsuit, could be misleading and don't necessarily reflect actual company practices. A subsequent email suggests users wouldn't need to be prompted to give permission for this feature to be activated.