COMMONS

Chair writes to Facebook over contradictory evidence in 2018

01 August 2019

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has today written to Nick Clegg, Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook to request urgent clarification following charges made against Facebook by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday 24 July.

The details of the SEC Complaint appears to directly contradict evidence given by Facebook officials to the UK Parliament over the course of 2018, particularly on the following points: 

  • Who at Facebook knew what and when about Cambridge Analytica’s activities on the platform with the “thisisyourdigitallife” app which lead to the misuse of 87million peoples data. Senior executives from Facebook, including its Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer and Lord Richard Allan, consistently asserted in evidence over the course of 2018 to the Committee that Facebook first learned that Global Science Research (GSR) and Cambridge Analytica had compromised Facebook user data from a Guardian article published in December 2015. However, the SEC Complaint states that Facebook employees already knew about Cambridge Analytica prior December 2015. 
  • Guarantees about the deletion of user data held by Cambridge Analytica. Further to the concerns raised by Facebook employees in 2015, the SEC Complaint notes that several Facebook employees were also aware of data misuse throughout 2016 and beyond. Despite these concerns, on 8th February 2018, Simon Milner, Policy Director at Facebook, denied to the Committee that Cambridge Analytica held a “large chunk of Facebook user data.”  In April 2018, when asked to comment on Mr. Milner’s answer, Mr. Schroepfer argued that “the reason we have reopened all this is that, as you all have learned and we have learned last month, there are allegations that that data still existed at Cambridge Analytica.” The Committee are requesting information on instances that concerns about Cambridge Analytica were raised by employees and why no action was taken until 2018, and why the Committee was not informed about these concerns in the sessions with Mr. Milner and Mr. Schroepfer.
  • Lack of communication to senior management over concerns about Cambridge Analytica’s activity. There are serious concerns raised by the Complaint that, despite the red flags raised by Facebook employees about Cambridge Analytica from as early as September 2015, these incidents were not reported to senior management. In a letter to the Committee dated 14 May 2018, Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s UK Head of Public Policy, confirmed that “Mr. Zuckerberg did not become aware of allegations that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted data about Facebook users obtained through Dr. Kogan’s app until March of 2018, when these issues were raised in the media.”

The Committee request clarification on these points by 12th August 2019.

Further information

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