UK Parliament seizes Facebook documents in privacy probe

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The documents were obtained by Six4Three through legal processes in the USA, after the company took legal action against Facebook.

This cache of documents is said to contain important revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytical scandal.

The documents were seized during the discovery process in a Six4Three lawsuit that claims Facebook created privacy loopholes that allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain Facebook user data.

"We allege that Facebook itself is the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry", Ted Kramer, the owner of Six4Three, the company suing Facebook, told CNN in an interview this summer. When the founder failed, Mr Kramer was escorted to Parliament and was threatened with imprisonment if he did not comply. "We've failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest", Collins said.

This situation is the latest and toughest move in a bitter battle between the British parliament and the social media giant.

The documents were handed over when a rare parliamentary mechanism was invoked to compel the founder of a United States software company Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London.

"We are in uncharted territory", Collins, told the Observer.

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However, the businessman was obliged to hand over the documents as the summons was issued in the United Kingdom, where Parliament has superiority.

Collins' seizure, however, did not take place against Facebook itself; rather, the documents have been seized from United States software development company Six4Three after having been obtained as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit against Facebook.

Allan pleaded with Collins not to raise the material at the hearing, which MPs are entitled to do under Parliamentary privilege, "until we have further guidance from the court".

As chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, Mr Collins has transformed what started as quite a limited and unfocused fake news inquiry into a forensic investigation of the conduct of Facebook.

Lawmakers from seven countries are preparing to grill Richard Allan, a Facebook executive in charge of public policy, at the committee's hearing in London.

The committee has previously questioned whistle blowers and senior officials at Cambridge Analytica, the company that harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles without the consent of the users as part of attempts to predict voter behaviour.

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