- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed leveraging user data to determine how much money third parties would pay to purchase it, according to a report Tuesday.

Leaked documents obtained by NBC News revealed that Mr. Zuckerberg considered pursuing scores of deals with developers “as a path to figuring out the real market value” of Facebook user data and then “setting a public rate” for third parties.

“The goal here wouldn’t be the deals themselves, but that through the process of negotiating with them we’d learn what developers would actually pay (which might be different from what they’d say if we just asked them about the value), and then we’d be better informed on our path to set a public rate,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a 2012 message cited by NBC News.

Facebook’s plans for figuring out a price tag for user data appeared among roughly 4,000 pages of documents leaked to NBC News and two other outlets by British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, the report said. They stem from a lawsuit filed in California against Facebook by Six4Three, a startup company that ran Pikinis, an app that shut down shortly after Facebook revoked its access to user data in 2015.

Facebook said it did not go forward with Mr. Zuckerberg’s proposal.



According to NBC News, the documents reveal Facebook decided instead to allocate access to user data to third parties based on whether they were considered friendly to the company or its competition.

“We gave a bunch of stuff ‘for free’ historically (data, distribution) and now we’re making you ‘pay’ for it via reciprocal value,” Facebook director of engineering Michael Vernal wrote in a June 2013 message questioning the policy. “The confusing thing here is that we haven’t really announced these changes publicly/broadly yet.”

David Poll, a senior Facebook engineer, called the arrangement “sort of unethical,” according to a later exchange cited.

“The set of documents, by design, tells only one side of the story and omits important context,” Facebook responded in a statement. “The documents were selectively leaked as part of what the court found was evidence of a crime or fraud to publish some, but not all, of the internal discussions at Facebook at the time of our platform changes. But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”

Facebook accused Six4Three in court last week of leaking the documents. Six4Three has denied responsibility, NBC News reported.

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