Facebook Gave Some Companies Special Access to Users’ Data, Documents Show

LONDON — Emails and other internal Facebook documents released by a British parliamentary committee on Wednesday show how the social media giant gave favored companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix special access to users’ data.

The documents shine a light on Facebook’s internal workings from roughly 2012 to 2015, during a period of explosive growth as the company was navigating how to manage the mountains of data it was accumulating on users.

The committee said the documents show Facebook entering into agreements with select companies to allow them access to data after the company made policy changes that restricted access for others

Other emails show the company debating whether to give app developers that spent money advertising with it more access to its data. In other instances, Facebook discussed shutting off access to companies it viewed as competitors.

The release of the documents has been in dispute for more than a week because the materials have been under seal by a California judge as part of an unrelated lawsuit between Facebook and app developer.

Damian Collins, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that is investigating Facebook, resorted to using parliament’s sergeant-at-arms to get the documents, who said he had the power to obtain and publish them.

In a statement, Facebook said the documents were part of a “baseless” lawsuit and “only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context.”

“Like any business, we had many of internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform,” Facebook said. ”But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”

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