British lawmakers have issued a hard-hitting report, accusing Facebook and other social media platforms of deliberate breach of user privacy. The report was prepared by the Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee on the issue of social media disinformation following an 18-month inquiry. The legislature published it on its website on Sunday.
The body said Facebook was “intentionally and knowingly” violating data privacy laws. It said it had come to the conclusion after studying internal Facebook emails handed to them by a company named Six4Three, which, itself, is suing Facebook for allegedly harming its business.
“The evidence that we obtained from the Six4Three court documents indicates that Facebook was willing to override its users’ privacy settings,” the parliamentary report read. Doing so would enable Facebook “to transfer data to some app developers, to charge high prices in advertising to some developers, for the exchange of that data, and to starve some developers—such as Six4Three—of that data, thereby causing them to lose their business,” it added.
“The guiding principle of the ‘move fast and break things’ culture often seems to be that it is better to apologize than ask permission,” said committee chairman Damian Collins, Reuters reported.
Therefore, the report said, Facebook and other big tech companies had to be made subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle data abuse as well as, what the lawmakers called, bullying of smaller firms.
A Facebook spokesperson has, however, told The Hill that documents obtained from the Six4Three are inaccurate. “As we’ve said many times, the documents Six4Three gathered for their baseless case are only part of the story and are presented in a way that is very misleading without additional context,” the official said.
The parliamentary investigation was launched after a whistleblower named Christopher Wylie alleged that political consultancy company Cambridge Analytica had obtained the data of millions of users from Facebook.
The report has accused Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg of failure to live up to his leadership and personal responsibilities.
Over the course of the inquiry, British lawmakers have asked Zuckerberg to turn up for explanation before them. He has failed to do so on three occasions, prompting the committee to censure him for “contempt” towards the Parliament.