Facebook 'let favoured firms access lists of users' friends'

Facebook let some companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, access users’ lists of friends after it cut off that data for most other apps around 2015, according to documents released yesterday by a British lawmaker investigating fake news and social media.

The 223 pages of internal communication from 2012 to 2015 between high-level employees, including founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, provide new evidence of previously aired contentions that Facebook has picked favourites and engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.

The documents show Facebook tracked growth of competitors and denied them access to user data available to others.

In 2014, the company identified about 100 apps as being either “Mark’s friends” or “Sheryl’s friends” and also tracked how many apps were spending money on Facebook ads, according to the documents, referring to Mr Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The insight into the thinking of Facebook executives over that period could invite new regulatory scrutiny into its business practices.

Facebook said it stood by its deliberations and decisions, but noted that it would relax one “out-of-date” policy that restricted competitors’ use of its data.

One document said such competitor apps had previously needed Mr Zuckerberg’s approval before using tools Facebook makes available to app developers.

Damian Collins, a Conservative British parliamentarian who leads a committee on media and culture, made the internal documents public after demanding them last month.

Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a post yesterday that the company could have prevented the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal had it cracked down on app developers a year earlier in 2014.

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