Mark Zuckerberg no-show sparks anger and outrage by parliamentarians
| Yet again, Facebook’s CEO fails to represent his own company.
As Mark Zuckerberg continues to defy calls to appear before parliament, Richard Allan takes the Facebook CEO’s most uncomfortable seat.
In a Westminster committee room, parliamentarians from nine countries interrogated Facebook’s European policy chief over one issue: Where is Zuckerberg?
Allan was on the defensive as politicians accused Facebook of playing fast and loose with user data. And even more worrying, aiding repression in Myanmar and threatening democracy around the world.
Zuckerberg no-show “speaks volumes”
The biggest criticism came from a Canadian MP who said:
Our democratic institutions have been upended by frat boy billionaires from California. And Mr Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear speaks volumes.
However, there was another burning issue prompting questions from the floor. – What about those internal Facebook documents seized from a businessman locked in a legal dispute with the social media giant?
In the event, committee chairman Damian Collins chose to delay publishing the documents. But he did select one email from the pile, sent by a Facebook engineer in 2014.
The engineer reported a high level of Russian activity, with three billion data points a day being accessed from Russian IP addresses.
When asked what action had been taken about this warning, Mr Allan could not provide an adequate answer. Would Mark Zuckerberg have been any more elequent?
Facebook later published the entire email thread. It suggested the engineers who had raised the issue subsequently concluded that there was no clear evidence of Russian activity.
So, on this occasion Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook survived the clash relatively unscathed. However, later that day, evidence from another witness suggested that on issues concerning access to user data, Richard Allan had been “less than frank” with the committee.
Easy access to user’s data
Ashkan Soltani, former FTC technology advisor, said version one of Facebook’s platform did allow developers unfiltered access to users’ data. This was before it was changed in 2014. However, this contradicted the evidence given earlier.
Soltani added that, in the 2011 settlement of its privacy case against Facebook, the FTC alleged that if a user had an app installed it had access to nearly all the users’ profile information, even if set to private.
The following day Damian Collins heavily criticised Richard Allan’s performance. He told the conference:
I don’t think he was straight with the committee. Was it disingenuous? Yes. Was it misleading? Yes. Did he probably hold back relevant and important information? Almost certainly yes.
Facebook disputes this and does not agree with the version of events presented by Mr Soltani. It is also peeved at “the biased use of documents obtained from a litigant and the app developer Six4Three”. The tech giant claims that this was a determined to paint Facebook in the worst possible light.
This is an ongoing battle, which is very likely to become increasingly bitter. Possibly even worse if Mark Zuckerberg fails to step up to the plate and personally contribute to this debate – Ed.
Within the next few days, Damian Collins is planning to release a redacted version of the documents. It is believed this may clarify internal discussions at Facebook about how far to go in allowing developers access to users’ data.
Sources and credits: BBC News