IF's take on Parliament seizing Facebook’s internal papers

Over the weekend, Parliament seized some of Facebook's internal papers. Why? These papers are suspected to have information about the decisions Facebook made about data and privacy controls, a central part of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Parliament is clearly frustrated by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to appear before Damian Collins’s select committee.

Felix’s take:

‘If the documents reveal that Facebook was actively selling and exploiting the privacy loophole, they should be made public to hold Facebook to account. Assuming that this would cause Facebook a further loss in value, they would immediately learn consequences from their wrongdoing. Moreover, if they were actively selling it, there must be others than Facebook that knew.

It also reminds me of Facebook exploiting two-factor authentication for selling telephone numbers to advertising companies. They intentionally tricked people into sharing valuable private data by allegedly offering a security feature to protect privacy.

The whole story shows the need for new tools to make digital services like Facebook more transparent. Nat recently wrote about Trillian, one of these kinds of tools, and the opportunities it creates for regaining trust.'

Georgina’s take:

‘It’s unclear to me who should hold Facebook to account. The ICO recently fined Facebook £500,000 for allowing Cambridge Analytica to unfairly use data about users in the EU referendum. Facebook have appealed under grounds that there is no evidence the data was about UK citizens. The ICO now say the fine was because UK citizens were at risk. The Irish Data Protection Commission are responsible for ensuring rights are protected under the GDPR. Now DCMS have seized Facebook documents to investigate the Cambridge Analytica scandal under parliamentary powers that are rarely used.

It’s really important that regulators have the power to hold companies like Facebook to account. There should be clear, specific, transparent information on how they can do that. If it feels ambiguous and processes and judgements are inconsistent it undermines their ability to regulate organisations fairly.’