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U.K. Parliament Publishes Seized Facebook Documents

     
3:28 pm on Dec 5, 2018 (gmt 0)

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A cache of 250 documents that were seized by U.K. Parliament have been publsihed, and the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee indicated some "key issues, including...
"
  • Facebook allowed some companies to maintain "full access" to users' friends data even after announcing changes to its platform in 2014/2015 to limit what developers' could see. "It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted," Mr Collins wrote
  • Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users' calls and texts would be controversial. "To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features," Mr Collins wrote
  • U.K. Parliament Publishes Seized Facebook Documents [bbc.co.uk]

    There are a couple of other points, too, including information that Facebook used external data to determine which mobile apps were used by the public, and then used the information to decide which apps to acquire or to treat as a threat.

    Earlier
    UK Parliament Seizes Facebook Internal Papers [webmasterworld.com]
    6:38 am on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    What amazes me is how many high-level people manage to have simple typos in fairly important correspondences. It's also interesting to see the range of companies that were playing along. From hook-up services to banks.

    Mack.
    9:24 am on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Facebook responds to the documents, and, i'm sure it's no surprise to find it's defended its position.
    [newsroom.fb.com...]

    There's another revelation coming from this, and it should really be a wake-up call to those that frequently use the system.
    The emails show Facebook’s growth team looking to call log data as a way to improve Facebook’s algorithms as well as to locate new contacts through the “People You May Know” feature. Notably, the project manager recognized it as “a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective,” but that risk seems to have been overwhelmed by the potential user growth.

    [theverge.com...]
    11:38 pm on Dec 6, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    You think Zuck might now be regretting avoidance of sitting down with these people when asked? Inquiring minds want to know.
    1:01 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Personal feelings about facebook aside, it is beyond scary that a government is willing and capable of seizing an entity's internal documents and making them public.
    1:26 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    it is beyond scary that a government is willing and capable of seizing an entity's internal documents and making them public.


    I'm not saying this is right however there are 250 pages which I have just started to read.

    Are "governments" beginning to feel that they may have to react faster now to "placate" the public's fears/questions/worries with so much garbage having gone on with "unwary" users having being so totally naive?

    There's a lot of stuff to absorb and by the looks of it at least up to 4-5 years old.
    2:06 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    I think governments are starting to feel something.

    There have been so many points throughout history where placating the public's fears/questions/worries have led to some pretty nasty things.

    It's easy to rally around a move like this, big bad facebook and all, but it doesn't look quite as nice when this becomes the norm and your* neighbors have fears/questions/worries about you*.

    [en.wikipedia.org...]


    * "your" and "you" is not directed at anyone specifically.
    2:34 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    None of this should surprise anyone knowing that, in this day and age, people and their information ARE the product and a means to making money. Nor is this new. Magazines sell their subscriptions lists, the DMV sells its list of drivers, election boars sell their lists of voters, and so on. How is this truly any different.
    3:29 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    It all boils down to Zuck and the other titans want their cake and eat it, too.

    Hide be hind exemptions of UGC and then turn around and act like PUBLISHERS. PUBLISHERS CAN BE SUED or held accountable. The Section 230 gives them an escape ... and that's how they (Zuck, too) built their empires.

    Govt is glacial, but when it moves great huge changes happen.

    Railroads.
    Standard Oil.
    AT&T.
    Somewhere in there PRINT and MEDIA and REPORTING including general ENTERTAINMENT were caught up.

    Whenever a few ...

    Well, you get the picture. These days the gubermint (sic) is getting it, too ... especially since zuck and crew are getting in THEIR bread and butter (Elections, Laws, Riots in eg. a European country, Censorship and...)

    One can only hope that a g engineer/top critter heads to UK, since those fellows are not above demanding documents!

    IF NOT OBVIOUS, most of the above is comments regarding historical trust busting with a bit of humor involved.

    WHAT should be taken into consideration is the documents revealed are nearly eight years old! Who knows where things stand TODAY?

    "Have you secured your fb account today?" Sounds like a cottage industry in the making.
    11:52 am on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Anyone can be sued, or even held accountable. The irony of a company being "held accountable" for sharing aggregated data willingly (albeit naively) shared with them on a sharing website is beyond compare.

    What this government did should scare people. It won't, because of the target, but it should. Seizing the documents was bad enough. But to turn around and make those documents public, that would be criminal if anyone else did it... just ask Julian Assange.
    2:04 pm on Dec 7, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    it is beyond scary that a government is willing and capable of seizing an entity's internal documents and making them public

    But the UK government did no such thing.

    It was a Select Committee of "the High Court of Parliament" using their legal powers in the course of a formal Inquiry.

    A Select Committee has the power to "send for persons, papers and records" and as such can compel people in the UK to answer questions and provide documents.

    Failure to comply with the subpoena is contempt of Parliament and may be penalised, in a similar way to the US system of Congressional subpoenas and contempt of Congress.

    Both systems can publish seized documents:

    many legal rights usually associated with a judicial subpoena do not apply to a Congressional subpoena. For example, attorney-client privilege and information that is normally protected under the Trade Secrets Act do not need to be recognized. (Wikipedia)

    Mr Zuckerberg himself has been asked to give evidence to the Parliamentary committee ("sharing is caring") but cannot be compelled unless he sets foot in the UK.

    What this government did should scare people.

    It wasn't a government, and the US system is much the same.

    ...
    12:16 pm on Dec 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    And, of course, wasn't it lucky that the individual happened to have all these documents on him. And interesting that the docs implemented Facebook.

    And that the individual happened to be employed by Six4Three. And that Six4Three is currently in a dispute with Facebook.

    A more cynical person than me might just conclude that a person with an axe to grind with Facebook travelled to the UK with sensitive documents for the express purpose of being "compelled" to hand these documents to a body intending to publish them.

    But why not just leak them directly? Well, because
      "The materials obtained by the DCMS committee are subject to a protective order of the San Mateo Superior Court restricting their disclosure."
    5:49 pm on Dec 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    wasn't it lucky that the individual happened to have all these documents on him

    We do have internet access in parts of the UK, you know.

    And interesting that the docs implemented Facebook.

    Assuming you mean "implicated", why else would the investigators be interested in them?

    They are conducting an Inquiry into alleged privacy breaches and subversion of UK voting laws.

    As they said themselves, "We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest."

    And that the individual happened to be employed by Six4Three

    Press reports describe him as the founder of that company.

    As such he would presumably have full access to all of its documents.

    Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London. In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents.

    Source: [theguardian.com ]

    ...
    6:03 pm on Dec 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    I'm a lbit confused by this ...
    But the UK government did no such thing.
    It was a Select Committee of "the High Court of Parliament"
    Isn't the Select Committee of "the High Court of Parliament" part of the government?
    6:18 pm on Dec 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Isn't the Select Committee of "the High Court of Parliament" part of the government?

    Of course it is... the forest gets lost in the trees sometimes.
    6:55 pm on Dec 10, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Isn't the Select Committee of "the High Court of Parliament" part of the government?

    No, it is not.

    The government is the executive or cabinet - ministers of the majority (ruling) party, enacting its program.

    Parliament is the full legislature, about 1300 individuals who are elected, appointed, or hereditary.

    Parliamentary committees are cross-party and operate independently of government - in fact, one of their primary purposes is to "scrutinise the work and expenditure of the government" and hold the executive to account.

    It is similar to the US system insofar as someone like Bernie Sanders is currently part of the legislature.

    But my understanding is that he is definitely not in the US government.

    Hope this helps.

    the forest gets lost in the trees sometimes

    If you go down to the woods today...

    ...
    8:46 am on Dec 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    @Samizdata
    We do have internet access in parts of the UK, you know.
    Yeah, I'm in the UK, using the internet.

    My point is that a suspicious person could conclude that Six4Three travelled to the UK specifically to share these documents with the wider world. They may have done so in conjunction with the Observer/Guardian (I know they are not quite the same, before you direct more snark at me). The move by the DCMS Committee is suspiciously well timed, going after a company that is not Facebook but is in dispute with Facebook, while investigating Facebook.

    My wider point would be that this is not so much an example of Parliamentary overreach, but collusion with a private entity to publish information that would otherwise constitute Contempt of Court.

    Now I'm not sure how I feel about Parliamentary Privilege being used in such a way. Lots of people will feel Philip Green got what he deserved, and Facebook too. But I'm a fan of "due process" and I am slightly uncomfortable with it being short-circuited this way. There is a whiff of publicity-seeking by Damian Collins, and the more arcane powers of parliament should not be used to support that.

    On the other hand, I was impressed by the MZ empty-chair photo he staged. That was well-executed publicity-seeking.

    "Government" is a term that can be defined in multiple ways. For example, in US politics, it is common to hear that the President is the Executive branch of government, while Congress is the Legislative branch of government. But I agree that is more misleading than true to suggest Select Committees are part of "the" Government- especially since their primary purpose is to hold the Government to account.
    9:54 am on Dec 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    "Government" is a term that can be defined in multiple ways.

    There is only one definition that matters in UK:

    [parliament.uk...]

    For example, Jeremy Corbyn has been in Parliament since 1983, but has never been in Government.

    He is currently leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition (to the Government).

    ...
    10:58 am on Dec 11, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    No, sure. But you were trying to use the US system to illustrate the UK system. However, the parallels are not clear-cut.

    In the US, the legislature does form part of Government. So Bernie Saunders is part of US Government, but it would be odd to say he was "in" Government. In the UK, we speak of "the" Government in the way the Americans speak of the Executive or the President.

    Anyway, I was trying to add clarity about our system for the benefit of US readers, but I think our constitutional discussion is more diverting then illuminating. So for my part, I will park it there.
    2:19 am on Dec 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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    Government is pretty simple, regardless of type:

    Those in charge by the allowance of the populace.

    The fact that the populace might be dumb as posts is immaterial.

    Powers granted are those allowed, and how they are enforced follow that same pattern. There is a difference between US and UK, but the end result is pretty much the same.

    /not webmastering stuff!

    But we have to live by "it" (whatever/wherever".
     

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