Facebook might have thought the worst of the Cambridge Analytica affair was behind it, but the UK Government is questioning whether it was entirely truthful with evidence presented to a parliamentary committee.
In a letter written to Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications, Facebook is being asked to clarify discrepancies between testimonies it gave to the UK’s investigation into the scandal and evidence which was presented to the Security and Exchange Committee’s own investigation. The letter very politely and appropriately asks for clarification on statements made which seem to contradict.
“Further to our letter dated 17 July 2019, we would also like to raise several concerns considering recent charges made against Facebook by the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday 24 July,” the letter reads.
“The SEC Complaint seemingly directly contradicts written and oral evidence we received from Facebook representatives over the course of our enquiry into ‘Disinformation and fake news’ on several points raised below, and we request clarity on these issues.”
The letter itself was penned by Damien Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe and Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The evidence in question refers to testimonies given to the Committee by CTO Mike Schroepfer, Head of UK Public Policy Rebecca Stimson and VP of Privacy Solutions Lord Richard Allan, during DCMS investigations in 2018.
As Facebook is repairing its reputation across the world, attempting to regain trust and credibility in the eyes of the consumer, the last thing it needs is to be accused of lying to the UK Government.
The letter itself asks for clarity on three areas. Firstly, when Facebook executives were made aware of the abuse from Cambridge Analytica. Secondly, how the misuse of data was handled internally. And finally, communication between senior executives.
On the first point, Schroepfer and Lord Allan insisted the team was only made aware to the abuses through the article which exposed Cambridge Analytica published in the Guardian. That said, evidence presented to the SEC suggests internal concerns and complaints were raised in 2015, months before the article exposed the abuses.
On the continued abuse, Facebook executives suggested Cambridge Analytica had confirmed the deletion of the data in 2016, though it wasn’t until 2018 that executives were made aware the data was still be utilised. Evidence presented to the SEC contradicts these testimonies given to Collins and the other members of the DCMS Committee, as employees had on-going concerns through the intervening years thanks to Cambridge Analytica marketing materials.
Finally, evidence submitted to the Committee by Lord Allan and Stimson suggest CEO Mark Zuckerberg was not made aware of the continued abuse until 2018. However, Schroepfer has stated Zuckerberg was the primary decision maker for any privacy issues. If both statements are to be believed, there has been a systematic failure in dealing with privacy issues and policies. Collins questions why Zuckerberg and senior management were not made aware of these issues until the reports emerged in the press.
Although many assumed Facebook executives were not being entirely truthful when giving evidence, perhaps choosing to hold-back certain snippets of information, it might appear the social media giant has been caught trying to be too clever for its own good.
This is not a good headline for Facebook. It has shown little respect to the UK Government during the Cambridge Analytica saga, and these revelations just rub salt into the wounds. At a time where it is attempting to justify its existence and prove it can be a trustworthy guardian of user’s personal information, this letter shakes the foundations of credibility once again.