Put the wheels of the competition in the game, spy on any potential rival: the British parliament has released internal communications from the leaders of Facebook, who say a lot behind the scenes of his business.
The personal data are the oil of the digital age and Mark Zuckerberg is their J.R. Ewing, the central character and the relentless business man of the Dallas series. This is the image that emerges of the 250 pages of shock of internal communications between the Facebook leaders, published by the British Parliament, Wednesday 5 December.
These documents do not contain a new Cambridge Analytica scandal, the name of this company that has stolen tens of millions of personal data from Facebook users for political profiling purposes. But they draw the portrait of desperate leaders to establish their dominance in the world of social networks and seem to consider the protection of personal data as an obstacle to maximizing their profits.
The brutality of the practices of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and his lieutenants has caused several casualties, the most famous being Vine, the short-lived video sharing app created by Twitter. In an email from January 2013, the founder of the social media giant agrees to ban Vine's access to data from the Facebook platform. The app, which had just been launched, wanted to be able to view the Facebook friends lists to suggest other users to follow.
Thus, cut off from the resources of the largest social network, Vine has been deprived of an important means of increasing its popularity. A few months later, Instagram (which belongs to Facebook) launched a service in competition with Vine, which enjoyed all access to the parent platform. The Twitter video service has never been successful and was closed in 2016.
I believe there is considerable public interest in issuing these documents. They raise important questions about how they work, their policies for working with app developers and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market.
Damian Collins (@DamianCollins) 5 December 2018
Other apps have been more fortunate … they have been redeemed by Facebook. This is the case of WhatsApp messaging. The communications published by the UK Parliament show that this acquisition was mainly in response to the desire of Mark Zuckerberg & Co. to prevent a potential competitor from taking off.
It all started in 2013 with the acquisition of the Israeli Onavo data analysis company. One of their products, Onavo Protect, has been officially used to protect users' private data. But it also allowed Facebook to get valuable information about other applications used by users. For example, in April 2013, the leaders of social networks saw the growing popularity of WhatsApp, which, for the number of messages sent, was almost equal to Facebook. Eight months later, Mark Zuckerberg decided to spend $ 14 billion to acquire this annoying competitor.
The e-mails published also show that Facebook knew how to handle the stick (as in the case of Vine) as the carrot, sometimes to the detriment of users' personal data. The social network has continued, after 2014, to allow some applications, such as Airbnb, Netflix or "Hot or Not" – toaccess sensitive user information, such as their friends' lists. Yet Facebook had therefore officially decided to limit the access rights to this type of data, which are precisely those used by Cambridge Analytica. "It is not clear if users have agreed [pour que ces applications continuent à exploiter leurs données]", Says Damian Collins, a British conservative parliamentarian behind the publication of Facebook's internal communications.
The social network, which tried in vain to prevent the publication of these documents, defended itself by claiming that all these e-mails were launched to the public without putting them in context. These revelations concern, in particular, the period between 2012 and 2015, immediately after the IPO of Facebook. The group therefore had to find all the means to maximizehisprofits to continue to impress investors and shareholders. It is no coincidence that the most compromising documents always contain references to the requirements of the "growth team".
In their official response, social network leaders also insist on the origin of these documents. They were provided to UK parliamentarians by the creators of an application – Pikinis – engaged in a legal fight against Facebook since 2014. These emails would have given "only a part of the facts, presented in a misleading and incomplete way", says the US giant. In other words, the group accuses the British Parliament of playing a declared opponent of the social network for purely political purposes.
But the political impact is, in fact, the main interest of these revelations. The documents may portray a truncated reality, but they are no less proof that Facebook has not hesitated to exploit its attack strength in trying to put the competition in line. As such, these are all new cartridges that can be used by politicians who, in the US as in Europe, report the abuse of the dominant position of the Facebook empire.