- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally oversaw a list of competitors and decided whether they could access its platform data or not.
- That’s according to internal Facebook emails and documents published by UK Parliament as part of an investigation into privacy and disinformation.
- In an email sent in 2012, Zuckerberg gave Chinese chat app WeChat as an example of a competitor that should be restricted because it didn’t allow sharing back to Facebook.
- Zuckerberg also gave the personal nod for Facebook to cut off friend data access to Vine, the short video app owned by major rival Twitter.
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 revelation comes from a trove of Facebook emails, presentations, and documents published by UK Parliament as part of its ongoing investigation into privacy and disinformation.
The bulk of the emails and documents date from 2012 to 2015 and deal with the way Facebook allowed third-party apps to access friend data through its platform.
One internal document is not dated, but appears to have been written some time before major changes to Facebook’s developer platform in 2015. It outlined the upcoming changes to third-party app permissions that would restrict how much data app makers could access.
In one section, the document states that companies considered to be “strategic competitors” to Facebook were even more restricted in what they could access. It states that Mark Zuckerberg personally reviewed the list of competitors, and either he or another senior executive had to personally sign off any further access to data these companies might want.
According to the document: “Strategic competitors: We maintain a small list of strategic competitors that Mark personally reviewed. Apps produced by the companies on this list are subject to a number of restrictions outlined below. Any usage beyond that specified is not permited [sic] without Mark level sign-off.”
Facebook doesn’t list out its strategic competitors, though the obvious names to point to at the time might be apps produced by Google or Twitter as well as smaller apps.
A separate email from Zuckerberg, sent in November 2012, discusses how the company could enforce its developer rules against competitors. Specifically, Zuckerberg appears to be worried about social networks that don’t permit sharing back to Facebook, such as Chinese chat app WeChat.
He wrote: “First, in any model, I’m assuming we enforce our policies against competitors much more strongly. The good news about full reciprocity [where apps let users share their activity back to Facebook] is that for bigger social companies we might otherwise be worried about, if they’re enabling their users to push all of their social content back into Facebook then we’re probably fine with them. However, for folks like WeChat, we need to enforce a lot sooner.”
In yet another email, Zuckerberg personally approved Facebook cutting off Twitter-owned video service Vine from accessing certain friend data.