United Kingdom seizes internal Facebook documents

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Problems continue for the social network giant

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg keeps receiving bad news for underestimating a British parliamentary commission that has been investigating the impact of online misinformation on democracy for the most part of this year.

According to information security and digital forensics specialists from the International Institute of Cyber Security, this Commission has exercised the powers of Parliament of the United Kingdom to confiscate a cache of documents related to a lawsuit in the United States to promote its attempt to make Facebook responsible the misuse of user data.

The actions (or inactions) of Facebook regarding the users’ personal information has been a relevant research task for this Commission, because, as the 2018 advances, the number of cases of misinformation and misuse of the users data increases, a problem that became apparent with the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed in April this year.

According to specialists in digital forensics, these documents in possession of the British Parliament contain relevant information about the policies adopted by the high executives of the social network regarding the controls of privacy and data, including confidential information, such as mail exchanges between executives and Mark Zuckerberg himself.

In short, this commission accuses Facebook of deliberately disseminating misleading information, as well as concealing details about its policies.

The confiscated files refer to a lawsuit in the US about the political misuse of the Facebook data, presented by a startup company called Six4Three. The main complaint is that Facebook encouraged developers to create applications for their platform by insinuating that, in return, developers would get long-term access to user data. Then, when access to these data was reduced, the developers argue that the social network defrauded them.

Since it was presented, the plaintiffs have resorted to quoting the case of Cambridge Analytica, trying to reinforce their case. Six4Tree’s lawyers claim that the consultancy scandal was not due to the negligence of Facebook, but is the product of a fraudulent scheme designed by Zuckerberg.

The startup company resorted to the law to obtain the cache of documents, which remain sealed by order of a California court. But the UK Parliament used its own legal means to confiscate the files of the Six4Tree founder during a business trip to London when he was under the jurisdiction of the UK law, forcing him to give them away.

According to specialists in digital forensics and information security, the Parliament sent a sergeant to the hotel of the founder of Six4Tree, giving him a final warning and a period of two hours to comply with the order to deliver the documents. He was also warned that he was at risk of being fined and even imprisoned.

Damian Collins, head of the Committee of the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), said: “We have taken unprecedented measures, but we are facing an unprecedented situation, since we have not obtained any response from Facebook. We believe that these documents contain information of high public interest”.

On the other hand, a Facebook spokesman pointed out that the material obtained by the DCMS parliament commission is subject to an order of protection of the Superior Court of San Mateo, California, so that its disclosure is prohibited. “We have asked the DCMS Committee to refrain from revising them and to return them to a lawyer or to Facebook itself. That’s all we have to say for the moment”.