Monday, 26 November 2018 08:58

UK Parliament uses powers to seize Facebook documents

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UK Parliament uses powers to seize Facebook documents Pixabay

The British Parliament has seized internal Facebook documents from the founder of an American software company, using a rare mechanism to compel the handover of the documents during a business trip to London by the founder of Six4Three.

The Guardian reported that the documents are said to contain details of decisions taken by Facebook on data and privacy controls that resulted in the scandal involving the data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica.

The firm is alleged to have used data of more than 50 million Facebook subscribers for targeting voters in the 2016 US presidential election.

The allegations about Cambridge Analytica were made by a former employee, Christopher Wylie, and reported by London's The Observer and The New York Times in March.

Britain's culture, media and sport committee chairman Damian Collins was at the heart of the move to seize the documents. Parliament sent a sergeant at arms to the hotel where the founder of Six4Three was staying, and gave him two hours to hand over the documents.

He refused to do so and was promptly escorted to Parliament where it was made plain to him that he would be fined or even jailed if he did not hand over the documents.

Collins said: "We are in uncharted territory. 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.”

Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before a US Congressional hearing after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. But he refused to appear before the British or Canadian Parliaments despite being requested to do so.

“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,” Collins said.

“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.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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