Social media giant Facebook intentionally and knowingly breached data privacy and competition law, United Kingdom legislators said on Monday in a report on social media disinformation, CNN reported. The MPs also said Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg had shown contempt towards Parliament by not appearing before them.
The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in a report, said internal Facebook emails that it had reviewed showed that Facebook was “willing to override its users’ privacy settings” to transfer their data to app developers. Some developers were “starved” of data and forced out of business by Facebook, the committee added.
“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” the 108-page report said.
Facebook, in response, claimed it had not breached data protection or competition laws, and that the company supports effective privacy legislation. “We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform,” Facebook’s UK public policy manager Karim Palant said, according to Reuters.
The social media company has been facing tremendous criticism since it was found last year that they were aware that British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had been harvesting its users’ data for years. Cambridge Analytica was initially accused of using the information of 50 million Facebook users to bolster US President Donald Trump’s campaign before the 2016 elections.
Zuckerberg has refused to appear three times before British lawmakers. “Mark Zuckerberg continually fails to show the levels of leadership and personal responsibility that should be expected from someone who sits at the top of one of the world’s biggest companies,” the British lawmakers said.
‘Code of ethics required’
The committee urged that a compulsory code of ethics should be outlined for all tech companies, to be overseen by an independent UK regulator.
“We further recommend that the Government launches an independent investigation into past elections – including the UK election of 2017, the UK Referendum of 2016, and the Scottish Referendum of 2014 – to explore what actually happened with regard to foreign influence,” it said, according to AFP.
The committee also asked that UK regulators should investigate whether Facebook has been involved in any anti-competitive practices.
“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people,” committee chairman Damian Collins said. “The rights of the citizen need to be established in statute, by requiring the tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament, and overseen by an independent regulator.”