Facebook asks Parliament to keep quiet on internal documents seized following cat and mouse game

Mark Zuckerberg leaves the EU ParliamentFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the EU Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, May 22, 2018.AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

  • Last week, internal Facebook documents were seized by Parliament.
  • The documents allegedly include communications from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and evidence that Facebook promoted a loophole exploited by Cambridge Analytica.
  • Facebook asked Parliament to refrain from referencing the documents in an upcoming hearing.

In a letter to British MP Damien Collins, Facebook chief of public policy Richard Allan asked Parliament to put internal documents that were seized by the body last week off limits until the matter was addressed by a judge, according to a copy of the letter shown to Business Insider.

Internal Facebook documents that allegedly include communications from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and evidence that Facebook actively promoted the use of a privacy loophole exploited by Cambridge Analytica were reportedly seized by British Parliament last week, according to a report from The Guardian.

The seizure comes after Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to appear before British Parliament to answer questions raised by the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

The documents were reportedly produced by Facebook as part of the legal discovery process in a lawsuit brought against the company by app maker Six4Three, which is known for an app that allowed users to find pictures of their Facebook connections in bikinis. The company alleges Facebook destroyed its business when it changed its data use policies in 2015 to restrict third-parties from accessing data of their users' friends. Six4Three reportedly alleges that the documents seized by Parliament include communications from Mark Zuckerberg, along with evidence that Facebook knowingly created and promoted the privacy loophole that was eventually used by Cambridge Analytica.

Through their lawsuit, Six4Three has made numerous other explosive allegations against Facebook, including the claim that Facebook accessed and monitored the microphones of some Android users without their permission; that Facebook monitors the photo albums of iPhone users without explicit permission; and that Facebook remotely turned on users' Bluetooth without their permission to gain access to their location.

In his letter, Facebook public policy chief Richard Allen denied Six4Three's allegations and asked Parliaments to refrain from using the documents in a hearing Tuesday that Facebook is slated to appear at.

"The court that sealed the documents is due to consider these latest developments as early as tomorrow. It will be helpful for all of us to see Six4Three's explanation and any directions given by the judge in this case as we consider their legal status," wrote Allen. "It may be helpful for us to discuss this matter again after we have further guidance from the court," he continued.

Damian Collins3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) license from UK Parliament

The documents themselves were seized after an extensive cat and mouse game between Six4Three, Facebook, and British politicians.

The documents are technically protected by a California court order for Six4Three not to release them to the public, but after repeated refusals from Mark Zuckerberg to appear before British Parliament, MP Damian Collins took an interest in them. He told The Guardian, "We have followed this court case in America and we believed these documents contained answers to some of the questions we have been seeking about the use of data, especially by external developers."

Read more: Facebook won't say if it will sever ties with Elliot Schrage, the outgoing top exec who took responsibility for linking critics to George Soros

According to a CNN report, Collins sent a letter to Six4Three's Ted Kramer last Monday requesting the documents while he was in the UK for business. After learning of the request, Facebook reportedly notified the California court, which warned that releasing the documents would be "an act of contempt."

After Collins' initial request, a Parliamentary officer was reportedly sent to Kramer's hotel where he was given a two-hour deadline. After failing to meet the deadline, Collins was reportedly escorted to Parliament where he was warned that not surrendering the documents could result in fines or imprisonment.

The document seizure comes ahead of an "international grand committee" set for Tuesday that will address fake news, disinformation, and election interference, which Allen is scheduled to appear at.

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