Tech

Zuckerberg reportedly mulled 100 deals with developers to decide 'real market value' of user data

Key Points
  • The report, which cites 4,000 leaked internal documents, shines a light on the way senior company executives viewed attaching a dollar sign to sensitive user data.
  • It said Zuckerberg once mulled 100 deals with app developers for potentially selling access to user data, that would help with deciding the "real market value" of the data.
  • The company was engulfed in scandal last year following revelations over the improper sharing of user data with now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg once considered making deals with third-party developers just to help him find out how much users' data is worth, according to an NBC News report.

The report, which cites 4,000 leaked pages of internal documents, shines a light on the way senior company executives viewed attaching a dollar sign to sensitive user data, despite Facebook's public commitment to protect such information.

It said the social network's boss once mulled 100 deals with app developers for potentially selling access to user data. In one message highlighted by the publication, Zuckerberg says the goal "wouldn't be the deals themselves," but learning "what developers would actually pay."

Zuckerberg reportedly said the deals would help Facebook decide the "real market value" of Facebook's data on users, and help it set a "public rate" for developers. Facebook ultimately decided not to go forward with such a strategy, the company told NBC.

The CEO has said in the past that Facebook would "never" sell people's information without their consent.

According to the documents obtained by NBC, Zuckerberg was described by one executive as being a "master of leverage."

The documents in question stem from a California court case between Facebook and Six4Three, which developed an app called Pikinis, which let people pay to find pictures of users in swimsuits. Six4Three's app was shut down in 2015 after Facebook changed its policies around the sharing of user data with third-party app developers.

Some of the documents had already been released by U.K. lawmaker Damian Collins, who has been probing Facebook's data practices. NBC says the new documents were anonymously leaked to U.K. investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, and then shared with a handful of media outlets.

Facebook has said in the past that the documents were "cherry-picked" and misleading. NBC said it wasn't able to confirm whether the documents reflect a "complete picture."

"As we've said many times, Six4Three – creators of the Pikinis app – cherry picked these documents from years ago as part of a lawsuit to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app's users," Paul Grewal, Facebook's vice president and deputy general counsel, said in a statement emailed to CNBC. "The set of documents, by design, tells only one side of the story and omits important context."

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"The documents were selectively leaked as part of what the court found was evidence of a crime or fraud to publish some, but not all, of the internal discussions at Facebook at the time of our platform changes," he added. "But the facts are clear: we've never sold people's data."

Facebook was engulfed in scandal last year following revelations over the improper sharing of user data with now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. Politicians around the world have called for increased regulation since, with some even suggesting a breakup of big tech firms, to combat the industry's privacy problem.

Read the full NBC News report on the internal Facebook documents here.