Britain accuses Facebook of intentionally violating data privacy laws

Nicholas Sakelaris
A scathing report by British lawmakers Monday called Facebook a digital gangster that needs new policies and regulation. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A scathing report by British lawmakers Monday called Facebook a "digital gangster" that needs new policies and regulation. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Social media giant Facebook is under fire again in Britain, where lawmakers say the company intentionally violated privacy and anti-competition laws under the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg.

Britain's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee completed an 18-month investigation into Facebook's role in the spread of disinformation online. Its final report Monday faulted Zuckerberg for showing contempt for British Parliament and the International Committee.


Lawmakers also faulted Zuckerberg for refusing to testify in London about his company's privacy policies and its association with Cambridge Analytica, as he had done in the United States.

"Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law," the report said. "Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world's biggest companies."

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The British investigation examined a trove of documents between Zuckerberg and company employees stemming from a U.S. lawsuit filed by an app firm called Six4Three, which furnished the panel with some of the documents.


The report recommends classifying Facebook and other social media companies as a new category of tech company to increase their liability.

British lawmakers said they found proof Facebook was willing "override its users' privacy settings in order to transfer data to some app developers."

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"It is evident that Facebook intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws," it states.

The report also describes how the personal information of thousands of Facebook users ended up in the hands of British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission had faulted Facebook in 2011 for allowing third-party developers to access user data without restraint. To settle the complaint with the FTC, Facebook was supposed to take steps to solve the issue.

"The Cambridge Analytica scandal was facilitated by Facebook's policies," the report said. "If it had fully complied with the FTC settlement, it would not have happened."

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Facebook said Monday it made a "significant contribution" to the British investigation and answered more than 700 questions.

"While we still have more to do, we are not the same company we were a year ago," said Karim Palant, British public policy manager at Facebook.


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