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Cambridge Analytica: Facebook internal documents accessed by the UK Parliament

By Nikhil Cariappa

The UK Parliament has gotten access to a cache of internal Facebook documents related to decisions made by senior executives at Facebook, reports TechCrunch. This information contains user data management which eventually led to the Cambridge Analytica data breach. TechCrunch reports that this contains emails between executives and Mark Zuckerberg.

The documents were filed in a US court, in an ongoing legal dispute between Facebook and a startup called Six4Three, which initiated the lawsuit. The core allegation is that Facebook defrauded developers by enticing them to create apps on the platform by implying that in return, they would get long term access to users’ data, including friends’ data. However, Facebook soon restricted access to friends’ data. Six4Three claims that it invested $250,000 in the app, and was relying on the access to data to be more successful.

The UK Parliament “got wind” that Ted Kramer, the CEO and co-founder of Six4Three, was in London this week and carrying a laptop which contained all the sensitive documents pertaining to the case. Conservative MP, Damian Collins, asked Kramer to hand over the documents to Parliament. Kramer, allegedly refused to do so, on the grounds that the data was sealed, by order of a California court. Collins then dispatched a Parliamentary sergeant at arms to Kramer’s hotel and escorted him to the Parliament where Kramer surrendered the documents.

Six4Three is a U.S. based machine learning startup whose debut app is called ‘Pikinis’. The app lets users search their friends’ photo gallery for pictures of them in a bikini. Six4Three filed a lawsuit against Facebook after it restricted the app’s access to friends’ data.

Users of Cambridge Analytica data

  • The Observer reported how Cambridge Analytica accessed and analysed Facebook users’ data of almost 50 million US citizens to run targeted political advertisements
  • Cambridge Analytica’s parent company Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) has been active in India between 2003 and 2012
  • Indian political parties Indian National Congress was one of SCL’s clients, while the Bharatiya Janata Party worked with Ovleno Business Intelligence (Cambridge Analytica’s Indian partner)
  • Saavn, an American streaming app, which got acquired by Reliance is also one of the companies that got access to users’ friends’ data

It is likely that the newly acquired documents will be used by lawmakers at the ‘International Grand Committee on Disinformation’, which will be held in London today.

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