UK Parliament seizes Facebook documents

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

According to the newspaper, the British Parliament sent a serjeant-at-arms to his hotel with a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the founder of software firm Six4Three failed to do so, it was understood he was escorted to Parliament, according to The Guardian.

The founder, who was on a business trip to London, was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he did not hand over the documents.

"This is an unprecedented move, but it is an unprecedented situation," Mr Collins said, according to The Guardian. "We have failed to get answers from Facebook, and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest."

Mr Collins also chairs an inquiry into fake news.

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 the documents include confidential e-mails between senior executives and correspondence with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Six4Three took action against the social media giant after investing £250,000 (S$438,000) in an app. It 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.

Six4Three had alleged that 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, according to The Guardian, raised the interest of Mr Collins and his committee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2018, with the headline 'UK Parliament seizes Facebook documents'. Print Edition | Subscribe