Social media giant Facebook conspired to use user data as a bargaining chip to pressure competitor app developers while framing the move publicly as a way to protect user privacy, the NBC news outlet reported, citing and publishing highly confidential leaked documents.
The outlet first released the story in April, citing about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents spanning largely from 2011 to 2015. They included emails, webchats, spreadsheets and meeting summaries that showed how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his management team found ways to tap the social network's user data and use it as leverage over companies it was partnered with.
As an example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because the e-commerce giant was spending a lot of money to advertise on the social media platform. At the same time, Facebook cut off the MessageMe messaging app because it was gaining traction as a competitor to Facebook's messaging app.
The leaked documents show that Facebook intended to frame the preferential treatment to partner companies as protection of user data.
The documents originate from a 2015 lawsuit that a small start-up company filed against Facebook, forcing it to submit the thousands of internal documents that revealed the social media giant's years-long efforts to control its competitors through leveraging user data as a bargaining chip.
In October, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that attorneys general from 47 US states planned to take part in an antitrust probe into Facebook. The investigation will look into whether the social media giant broke any state or federal laws as a result of any anti-competitive behaviour using its social media dominance.
Facebook has been facing international scrutiny over its privacy violations. In July, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle charges related to its violation of users' privacy following the Cambridge Analytica data transfer abuse scandal.