Facebook collected records of users' text and phone calls, secret documents reveal

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of the Facebook logo

"Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy whose vice president was Republican strategist Steve Bannon, gained access to data on 87 million users in ways that Facebook has said was improper but resembled a common practice at the time among app developers", the Post reports.

Even after Facebook agreed to restrict access to user data, the social media giant gave certain companies special access to that data, according to a trove of documents released by a British parliamentary committee Wednesday.

The documents show that Facebook tracked growth of competitors and denied them access to user data available to others.

Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018.

In yet another email, Zuckerberg personally approved Facebook cutting off Twitter-owned video service Vine from accessing certain friend data.

Damian Collins, head of the committee, added that Facebook shut off access to data required by competing apps, conducted global surveys of the usage of mobile apps by customers possibly without their knowledge, and that a change to Facebook's Android app policy that resulted in call and message data being recorded was deliberately made hard for users to know about.

Facebook also used Onavo (an Israeli analytics company it bought in 2013) to observe users' overall usage of its mobile apps without their approval or knowledge in order to figure out how many users had downloaded apps and how often they used them.

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Though filed under seal and redacted in the lawsuit, Collins said the material needed to be made public because "they raise important questions about how Facebook treats users' data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market". He'd obtained the documents after compelling the founder of USA software company Six4Three to hand them over during a business trip to London.

Zuckerberg in 2012 underestimated how much giving developers access to data could be a risk.

In one email, dated February 4, 2015, a Facebook engineer said a feature of the Android Facebook app that would "continually upload" a user's call and SMS history would be a "high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective".

Facebook's director of developer platforms and programs Konstantinos Papamiltiadis told AFP last week that the company "has never sold anyone's data".

"For most developers, we also limited their ability to request a list of who someone's friends were, unless those friends were also using the developer's app".

The documents had been sealed by a California court.

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