A UK parliamentary committee has released hundreds of pages of internal Facebook emails the company fought to keep secret, including some sent by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The 250 pages include conversations among senior Facebook executives as well as emails with outside app companies.

They also show Facebook considered charging developers for data access.

Parliament’s media committee seized confidential Facebook documents from the developer of a now-defunct bikini photo searching app as part of its investigation into fake news. In a summary of key issues pertaining to the documents, the committee says Facebook “whitelisted” or gave preferential access to certain companies, such as Airbnb and Netflix, even after the tech giant announced changes in 2015 to end access to a user’s “friends.”

“Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data,” the committee said in a statement preceding the emails. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.”

In another email, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote:

“There’s a big question on where we get the revenue from. Do we make it easy for devs to use our payments/ad network but not require them? Do we require them? Do we just charge a rev share directly and let devs who use them get a credit against what they owe us? It’s not at all clear to me here that we have a model that will actually make us the revenue we want at scale.”


The parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee received the documents from app developer Six4Three, which had acquired the files dating from 2013-2014, as part of a U.S. lawsuit against the social media giant. The app developer is suing Facebook over a change to the social network’s privacy policies in 2015 that led Six4Three to shut down its app, Pikinis, which let users find photos of their friends in bathing suits by searching their friends list.

Facebook responded quickly, saying the release was misleading.

“The documents Six4Three gathered for their baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context,” the statement said. “We stand by the platform changes we made in 2015 to stop a person from sharing their friends’ data with developers. Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform. But the facts are clear: we’ve never sold people’s data.”

Six4Three — which had an app that allowed users to search for pictures of their friends in swimsuits — has accused the social media giant of having a disregard for user privacy and claimed that Zuckerberg devised a plan that forced some of Facebook’s rivals, or potential rivals, out of business. Facebook says the lawsuit is without merit.

Mark Zuckerberg apologizes to Europe for data scandal, fake news

The UK parliamentary committee, led by Damian Collins, asked for the documents as part of a larger investigation into Facebook, fake news, disinformation and data privacy that has been going on for more than a year. The committee has repeatedly asked Zuckerberg to give evidence, but thus far he’s avoided the committee, even when it brought together lawmakers from nine different countries for an unprecedented “International Grand Committee on Disinformation.”

“I believe there is considerable public interest in releasing these documents. 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,” Collins said on Twitter. “We don’t feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents.”