In its drawn-out legal battle with the social media giant, the UK Parliament has made an unprecedented move to seize its papers, which reportedly include emails between senior executives and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The billionaire has repeatedly refused to testify before lawmakers amid their probe into data misuse.
The UK Parliament has seized Facebook internal documents which may shed light on how the US company handles data control and privacy security, The Guardian reports. The cache of documents, obtained a former Facebook investor, is said to contain confidential correspondence between the Silicon Valley giant’s senior executives and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
To seize the data, the parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee pursued an unprecedented move. The papers were obtained from the founder of the US-based software company Six4Three, who got access to the sensitive data during its own legal proceedings against Facebook in California. The entity alleged that Facebook exploited its own privacy control and created the loophole which was used by Cambridge Analytica.
“We have followed this court case in America and we believed these documents contained answers to some of the questions we have been seeking about the use of data, especially by external developers,” committee chair and head of the inquiry into fake news Damian Collins, who invoked the procedure, told the newspaper.
While Six4Three’s founder was in London, the lawmakers ordered him to hand over the Facebook cache. The UK Parliament sent a sergeant to his hotel, threatening that the entrepreneur would be escorted to the parliament, fined or even sent to prison in the future, if he refused to comply. The executive agreed but informed the US court and Facebook’s legal team.
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According to Collins, the lack of cooperation from Facebook forced them to go to extremes.
“This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest,” the lawmaker said.
Facebook’s Calls to Stop Publishing
Facebook vigorously refuted Six4Three’s claims and insisted that the documents the British parliament seized can’t be made public.
“The materials obtained by the DCMS committee are subject to a protective order of the San Mateo Superior Court restricting their disclosure. We have asked the DCMS committee to refrain from reviewing them and to return them to counsel or to Facebook. We have no further comment,” the Facebook statement reads, as quoted by The Guardian.
Since March, Facebook has been thoroughly investigated because of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, the company that gathered information on millions of Facebook user accounts in order to better target political ads, allegedly impacting both the US presidential election and the UK Brexit referendum. Amid the investigation in the US, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a Senate committee. The UK Parliament also summoned the founder of the social network, but he refused to attend. Vice-president for policy Richard Allan is slated to testify in his stead.
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Besides the Cambridge Analytica affair, Facebook has been recently mired in a number of other scandals regarding privacy. The social network was forced to admit that around 30 million accounts had been hacked using a vulnerability that existed between July 2017 and September 2018. The incident prompted calls from US lawmakers to conduct an investigation into the incident and make the results public. Moreover, the company lost around one million users in Europe amid news of the hack.
Furthermore, a PR firm hired by Facebook reportedly tried to discredit critics of the company by tying them to billionaire George Soros. When the matter became known to the public, it caused outrage, prompting Facebook to quickly conclude its relationship with the PR firm.