Like many tech companies claiming to be ethical, or not evil, Facebook seems to condition that morality on whether or not it is getting paid enough to change course. During internal discussions reported on by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook executives and employees appear to have considered ways in which to generate greater profits that would have gone against the stated ethical philosophies of the social network company.
It should be noted that Facebook didn’t ultimately follow through on those unethical practices, but its seems that the line holding Facebook back from such betrayals of confidence is mostly financial.
Deepa Seetharaman and Kirsten Grind report:
The Facebook emails referenced in the 18-page court document that was viewed by the Journal date back to the fall of 2012. At the time, Facebook had just emerged from a rocky public offering and was struggling to generate revenue from its mobile product while operating under a data-sharing policy established years earlier under Mr. Zuckerberg.
The policy allowed tens of thousands of outside app developers to access private information about Facebook users by plugging into the company’s developer platform. But developers were gaining access to that invaluable trove of data without giving Facebook anything in return.
As Facebook considered adjusting its strategy, employees discussed ways to get more revenue and data from developers, the Six4Three document shows.
An unidentified Facebook employee mentioned shutting down data access “in one-go to all apps that don’t spend… at least $250k a year to maintain access to the data,” according to one email referenced in the document. The full content of the email wasn’t included.
“We were trying to figure out how to build a sustainable business,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “We had a lot of internal conversations about how we could do this.”
Some of the deals discussed in the document appear to involve Facebook potentially receiving more ad dollars in return for access to user data. Those deals would have been at odds with Facebook’s stated business philosophies, and would have gone beyond the preferential access to private data given to some companies, which the Journal previously reported.
The backdrop for some of the discussions was Facebook’s pending move to restrict developers from seeing information on users’ friends, such as name, birth date, photos and page likes. The company announced the move in 2014, and it went into effect the next year.
Read more here.
Jeremy Jones, CFA
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