Facebook denies United Kingdom allegations after Six4Three document dump

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Facebook logo

Dating app Badoo and ride-hailing app Lyft were among other companies "whitelisted" for access to data about users' friends, the documents showed.

According to a new report from the New York Times, internal emails released by a British lawmaker allege that Facebook gave some advertisers and companies special access to data about Facebook users and made decisions about shutting down its competitors' access to data.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg personally oversaw a list of "strategic" competitors to the social network, and decided whether to restrict them from accessing valuable user data.

The developer, Six4Three, co-founded by Ted Kramer, built an app called Pikinis that could find pictures of friends wearing bikinis in their Facebook photos. "We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends' data with developers".

That included quietly collecting the call records and text messages of users of phones that run on Google's Android operating system without asking their permission. Facebook's platform, he said, "takes a user and turns them into a more engaged user through adding real identity and social connections to them".

Six4Three's founder, Ted Kramer, had obtained them as part of a legal discovery process in a USA lawsuit against Facebook that his company has brought against the social network in California. He explained his rationale for releasing the emails in a tweet: "We don't feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents".

Another email marked "confidential" from Konstantinos Papamiltidas, Facebook's director of platform partnerships, tied data access to ad spending.

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While they mostly cover the period between 2012 and 2015 -the first three years after Facebook went public - they offer a rare glimpse into the company's inner workings and the extent to which it used people's data to make money while publicly vowing to protect their privacy.

By sending all internet use by apps on users' iPhones via Facebook's servers the company was able to identify popular apps, the UK Guardian newspaper reported.

As for the DCMS's assertions regarding how the company's "reciprocity" provision and its Onavo VPN app dealt with user data, Facebook points out that users "had the choice" as to whether or not they would opt in and share their data.

Facebook has said it does not sell user data and on Wednesday it denied requiring app developers to buy advertising in return for access. "However, that may be good for the world but it's not good for us unless people also share back to Facebook and that content increases the value of our network". Facebook then used this data to influence their purchases of third-party companies.

The committee's seizure of the documents, which were under seal by a court in the United States, came after the CEO of Six4Three, Theodore Kramer, was threatened with arrest while on a business trip to London if he didn't hand over the material.

Kramer was ordered by a judge on Friday to surrender his laptop to a forensic expert after admitting he turned over the documents to the British lawmakers, in violation of a US court order.

"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". Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was happening.

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