Facebook ‘considered charging for access to user data’

Facebook considered selling user data to developers despite previous pledges not to do so, it has been claimed.

The Wall Street Journal says it has seen emails which show the social network discussing the idea of charging developers to retain access to user data before ultimately deciding against it.

It claims the documents are from the cache of files US software company Six4Three gathered as part of a legal case against the social network, copies of which have also since been seized by a House of Commons committee.

Facebook said the company has never sold user data to third parties, and founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously said the firm never would.

In 2015, Facebook changed its developer API settings in order to stop developers from seeing data from friends of users who had downloaded their apps.

It was this feature that was exploited to harvest data as part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

(Dominic Lipinski/PA)
(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

However, the Wall Street Journal claims it has seen emails from between 2012 and 2014 which show that Facebook discussed charging developers for continued access to this data rather than shutting them off completely.

The company ultimately decided against the move.

In response, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs Konstantinos Papamiltiadis said: “As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for this baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.

“Evidence has been sealed by a California court so we are not able to disprove every false accusation. That said, we stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. Any short-term extensions granted during this platform transition were to prevent the changes from breaking user experience.

“To be clear, Facebook has never sold anyone’s data. Our APIs have always been free of charge and we have never required developers to pay for using them, either directly or by buying advertising.”

Last week, chairman of the House of Commons Digital Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Damian Collins used a rare parliamentary mechanism to obtain the documents from a Six4Three executive who was in London on business.

Mr Collins said on Tuesday that he planned to release the documents once all personal information had been redacted.

- Press Association

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