Facebook documents seized by parliament’s Serjeant at Arms

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UK Parliament has seized a cache of Facebook documents which allegedly contain important information relating to the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal.

The House of Commons's Serjeant at Arms intercepted the documents from the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, while staying at a London hotel. The serjeant-at-arms gave the founder a two-hour deadline to hand over the documents in question and when he refused, he was reportedly escorted to Parliament and told he risked fines and imprisonment if he failed to comply.

The documents, which allegedly contain confidential correspondence between senior executives and Mark Zuckerberg, are said to hold illuminating information about the decisions Facebook made which led to now-defunct political strategist firm Cambridge Analytica receiving a mass of Facebook user data.

The documents were seized using rarely-used parliamentary powers and are the subject of an ongoing trial in California. The documents were with Six4Three's founder because the software firm took legal action against Facebook after investing $250,000 into an app.

Six4Three allege the cache of documents not only hold key information but shows that Facebook actively exploited the loophole in its privacy policy, the one used by Cambridge Analytica.

"We are in uncharted territory," said Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport committee to The Observer. "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.

"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.

The seizure comes in the wake of a feud between the UK and Facebook after Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly refused summons issued by MPs to explain Facebook's conduct around the scandal.

Cambridge Analytica was a British data analytics firm which helped political campaign target voters online. The scandal is that they used a loophole in Facebook's privacy policy to take user data and use it for purpose of voter modelling, feeding the company's ability to offer political strategy services to clients.

The mass collection of data came from 270,000 facebook profiles who completed an interactive quiz on the site and due to how access to Facebook data works, a number of their friends' data was also taken, leaving the final number of people to have their data stolen at 50 million.

It's been a busy year for Facebook's PR team who have had to deal with and deflect numerous questions about the company's conduct. Last month, it was fined 500,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The string of negative press attention have seen it lose more than $100 billion in value since the start of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. More recently, it has been questioned regarding allegations that they hired a PR firm to make allegations about the financier George Soros.

Connor Jones

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.