The UK parliament has used its legal privileges to seize a Facebook document cache containing internal information about the social media giant’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica.
The Facebook document cache was obtained by a US software firm, Six4Three, in the legal discovery process of a lawsuit filed by Six4Three against Facebook. When a Six4Three executive visited London, the select committee, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, sent a parliamentary official to the executive’s hotel to convince him to hand over the documents. When he failed to cooperate, he was escorted to parliament, where the committee endeavoured to convince him to provide the documents.
The measures taken by the select committee to obtain the Facebook document cache are extraordinary, but neither unprecedented nor illegitimate – providing evidence to a select committee is considered more or less compulsory for anyone who is not a member of the UK government, the House of Commons or the House of Lords. Collins said such actions were necessary in the context of Zuckerberg’s repeated refusals to appear in front of the committee, as well as another executive’s providing misleading testimony about the platform’s relationship with Russia in February.
The Facebook document cache was sealed by the California court through which Six4Three is taking action against Facebook, but the select committee is allowed by parliamentary privilege both to view the documents and, if it is deemed to be in the public interest, to make them public.