The British parliament has managed to seize internal Facebook documents are alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, through using its legal powers to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions.
The documents are claimed to include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg.
According to The Guardian, Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London.
In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents.
“We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest,” said Collins.
The British parliament has been in a bitter battle with the social media giant, which 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 $100 billion in value since March when the Observer exposed how Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from 87 million users in US only, faces another potential PR crisis. 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.
MPs have repeatedly tried to summon Zuckerberg to explain the company’s actions, and 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.
A Facebook spokesperson said that Six4Three’s “claims have no merit, and we will continue to defend ourselves vigorously”.