Internal Facebook Documents Reveal Zuckerberg Discussed Selling User Data to Developers, Advertisers

Silicon Valley wunderkind Zuckerberg in eye of the storm

Internal Facebook documents published by U.K. MP’s have revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed selling user data to developers and advertisers with staff.

A recent batch of internal Facebook emails published by U.K. MP’s has revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed selling access to user data, including information of users, to developers and advertisers on Facebook’s platform. Emails dating back to October 2012, shortly after Facebook’s IPO, show Zuckerberg brainstorming ways to generate revenue, including selling user data access directly to developers.

Zuckerberg wrote in his email:

I’ve been thinking about platform business model a lot this weekend…if we make it so devs can generate revenue for us in different ways, then it makes it more acceptable for us to charge them quite a bit more for using platform. The basic idea is that any other revenue you generate for us earns you a credit towards whatever fees you own us for using platform.

For most developers this would probably cover cost completely. So instead of every paying us directly, they’d just use our payments or ads products. A basic model could be:

Login with Facebook is always free
Pushing content to Facebook is always free
Reading anything, including friends, costs a lot of money. Perhaps on the order of
$0.10/user each year.

For the money that you owe, you can cover it in any of the following ways:
Buys ads from us in neko or another system
Run our ads in your app or website (canvas apps already do this)
Use our payments
Sell your items in our Karma store.
Or if the revenue we get from those doesn’t add up to more that the fees you owe us, then you just pay us the fee directly.’

In another email dated October 27 2012, Zuckerberg discussed linking user data to company revenue with Facebook’s former VP of Product, Sam Lessin. In the email, it appears that Lessin discussed the possibility of a data leak with Zuckerberg who did not seem to believe that a user data leak was a real threat. 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.

I’m getting more on board with locking down some parts of platform, including friends data and potentially email addresses for mobile apps.

I’m generally sceptical that there is as much data leak strategic risk as you think. I agree there is clear risk on the advertiser side, but I haven’t figured out how that connects to the rest of the platform. I think we leak info to developers, but I just can’t think if any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us. Do you have examples of this?……

Without limiting distribution or access to friends who use this app, I don’t think we have any way to get developers to pay us at all besides offering payments and ad networks

Read the full 250 pages of internal Facebook documents here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at


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