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Facebook senior executives used user data against competition and to help friends

April 16, 2019, 4:30PM EDT

Facebook’s senior executives have been considering selling user data for years, according to leaked internal Facebook documents accessed by NBC News. Both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were involved in the schemes. NBC News claims the data was “a bargaining chip” to control competitors. At the same time, Facebook put on a friendly face to the public.

The documents NBC News obtained contain 4,000 pages of leaked company documents from 2011 to 2015, and include emails, web chats, presentations, spreadsheets and meeting summaries. NBC News claims these contain information that could be used as leverage over companies it partnered with—data about friends, relationships and photos.

Facebook also provided its partners with access to user data. For instance, it rewarded Amazon access to user data for spending money on Facebook advertising. Facebook also favoured people NBC refers to as “personal ‘friends’ of Zuckerberg or those who advertised on Facebook.

The company also asked some third-party applications for compensation for accessing the data, all while claiming user privacy is of utmost importance to the social network. 

Although some of the documents had already been public—like the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—but no one saw the full extent of the data misuse before. 

NBC News states there is little evidence privacy was a serious issue for Facebook. In the documents, it was rather considered “a public relations strategy to soften the blow of the sweeping changes to developers’ access to user data.”