British Parliament seizes internal Facebook documents: Guardian

The documents are alleged to contain important information about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls.
The documents are alleged to contain important information about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Damian Collins, head of Britain's parliamentary committee dealing with culture and media issues, invoked a rarely used legal power to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over internal Facebook documents, the Guardian reported.

"This is an unprecedented move but it's an unprecedented situation," Mr Collins said, according to Guardian.

"We've failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest."

The documents are alleged to contain important information about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The newspaper said they include confidential e-mails between senior executives and correspondence with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

 
 

Six4Three obtained the documents in a legal action against Facebook, and they are subject to a California court order that forbids them from being shared or made public.

Facebook said the materials obtained by the parliamentary committee are subject to the court order, and it has asked the committee "to refrain from reviewing them and to return them to counsel or to Facebook," the Guardian reported.

The seizure is the latest move in a bitter battle between the British parliament and the social media giant, Guardian said.

The struggle to hold Facebook to account has raised concerns about limits of British authority over international companies that now play a key role in the democratic process.

Facebook, which has lost more than US$100 billion (US$138 billion) in value since March when the Observer exposed how Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from 87 million US users, faces another potential PR crisis.

According to the Guardian, it is believed the documents will lay out how user data decisions were made in the years before the Cambridge Analytica breach, including what Zuckerberg and senior executives knew.

British MPs leading the inquiry into fake news have repeatedly tried to summon Zuckerberg to explain the company’s actions. He has repeatedly refused.

Collins said this reluctance to testify, plus misleading testimony from an executive at a hearing in February, had forced MPs to explore other options for gathering information about Facebook operations.

“We have very serious questions for Facebook. It misled us about Russian involvement on the platform. And it has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” he said.

According to the Guardian, the documents seized were obtained during a legal discovery process by Six4Three. It took action against the social media giant after investing US$250,000 in an app.

Six4Three alleges the cache shows Facebook was not only aware of the implications of its privacy policy, but actively exploited them, intentionally creating and effectively flagging up the loophole that Cambridge Analytica used to collect data. That raised the interest of Collins and his committee.

A Facebook spokesman said that Six4Three’s “claims have no merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously”.