Zuckerberg used personal data about friends, relationships and photos as leverage over company partners

While publicly declaring its commitment to user privacy, the company was looking for ways to use the data it collects to its maximum advantage.


Big (personal) data is becoming big tech's new currency – and most definitely a commodity well beyond its obvious usefulness, the latest revelation about Facebook's dubious business practices seems to suggest.

Leaked Facebook emails, chat logs, minutes from meetings and various other documents dating back to between 2011 and 2015 show that the company was willing to abuse personal user data in a number of ways in order to advance its business.

NBC News said that it has had access to the leaked material, consisting of thousands of pages. The picture they paint is of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his executives playing ruthless corporate games in deliberate disregard of the privacy of billions of Facebook subscribers.

Facebook has now been exposed as using its unique, massive personal data collection to reward or punish allies and competition, as the case may be. While publicly declaring its commitment to user privacy, the company was looking for ways to use the data it collects to its maximum advantage.

As if sharing it to third-parties operating on its platform was not enough, the social media giant sought to trade it for more advertising money coming its way from other giants, such as Amazon, or to deny it to direct competition, such as an unnamed chat app, the broadcaster is reporting. And occasionally, the documents show, Zuckerberg would allow access to this digital gold mine to developers who were his “personal friends.”

Facebook has denied that it favored companies and developers for their advertising dollars, or for the sake of personal ties – and while it may be unethical, the practice laid out in the documents leaked anonymously and shared by UK investigative journalist Duncan Campbell with three media outlet, has not given rise to accusations that these actions were illegal, NBC News said.

But it should give pause to Facebook users who are discovering the arrogance of the company that likes to speak with a forked tongue: calming concerns about its practices through PR efforts, and then giving the issue of privacy little to no regard, as the leaked documents show. Instead, Facebook was feverishly attempting to (ab)use the sensitive private data at its disposal, for all it is worth.


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]