Top Facebook executives' strictly confidential court files leaked online

Top Facebook executives
# 23 February 2019 18:27 (UTC +04:00)

Slightly over two months after the first explosive leak of Facebook executives’ private exchanges by UK lawmakers, another unexpected publication, which popped up only now, seems to have taken the public by storm, referencing a number of critical financial matters that could have been a fatal privacy breach for Facebook, ONA reports citing Sputnik.

A private exchange, containing about 60 pages of unedited exhibits from a lawsuit between Facebook and Six4Three, an app developer, was posted on GitHub by an anonymous hosting platform user on Friday. The Guardian noted that certain redacted versions of some of the exhibits had been previously published.

The bunch of emails includes those sent by Facebook executives, namely CEO mark Zuckerberg, along with a “highly confidential” eight-page memo, dated to 2012 and focusing on a range of policy issues. For instance, in one part, Marne Levine, who at the time was VP for Facebook’s global public policy, ponders plans for data collection on Android devices, stating in black and white:

“We’ll be collecting users’ location data and matching it with cell site IDs. This information will be stored in anonymous form but will allow us to roll out location-aware ‘feature phone’ products in the future. Second the growth team wants to begin collecting certain limited information about whether users have a non-Google app store enabled and which default applications they are using for certain Facebook functions (camera, messages, etc.) for competitive analysis and product improvement purposes”.

In other parts of the text, Levine discusses attempts by various Facebook executives to establish friendly ties with politicians around the world, detailing among other things a successful effort to persuade the former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to join Facebook. Separately, the memo touches upon a meeting between a Facebook staffer and the head of California’s eCrime structure to talk about California’s former attorney general Kamala Harris’s office of privacy protection and potential accusations against the tech titan.

“The meeting went well and we were left with several useful assurances about the AG’s intentions – the most important being that they view Facebook as a good actor and they will keep communications with us open (we will not unknowingly be the subject of an investigation)”, Levine wrote.

The aforementioned cache of emails, which were also leaked Friday, appear to focus on no less sensitive matters, and even more so, referred to what might have been a fatal privacy breach for Facebook, with its financial results being publicised way ahead of schedule.

In an email thread, former Facebook VP Michael Vernal refers to some kind of issue with an app, noting that it “could have been near-fatal for Facebook Platform / Login / etc”.

“If Mark had accidentally disclosed earnings ahead of time because a platform app violated his privacy … literally, that would have basically been fatal for Login / Open Graph / etc”, Vernal stated explicitly. He continued to warn everyone in the thread to keep the exchange strictly secret:

“Listen guys/gals – DO NOT REPEAT THIS STORY OFF OF THIS THREAD”. He added, “I’m super, super serious here. I want us to follow-up on this and respond urgently here, but I also do not want this story spreading inside of Facebook or off of this thread at all. I can’t tell you how terrible this would have been for all of us had this not been caught quickly”.

The confidential lawsuit docs have caused a great deal of controversy since last November, when they ended up in the UK parliament’s hands under still unclear circumstances. The documents were sealed by the California court after Six4Three, founded and headed by Ted Kramer, sued Facebook in 2015. However, this didn’t prevent them from being handed over to Damian Collins, the chair of a UK parliamentary committee that was also probing Facebook.

Collins reportedly told Kramer that a refusal to share the materials would put him in “contempt of Parliament”, which is now being meticulously studied not only by Facebook, but also by the California court. Whatever the case, confidential emails hinting at Facebook’s intentions to leverage the company’s work and vast troves of user data into revenues, were released by the British parliament in early December. The technological company denounced the publication at the time, blasting it as “cherry-picked” in one of its blogposts.

“The set of documents, by design, tells only one side of the story and omits important context … The documents were selectively leaked to publish some, but not all, of the internal discussions at Facebook at the time of our platform changes. But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data”, Facebook pointed out.