Calls made for Facebook's data usage to be investigated by UK watchdog

A report by a UK parliamentary committee has singled out Facebook for its "disingenuous" responses to the misuse of personal data and called for the government to form a watchdog to further investigate the company


Following an investigation into online political disinformation, a UK parliamentary committee report has called for the government to create a data watchdog to investigate Facebook's use of user data.

The Disinformation and "fake news": Final Report called Facebook out on its "disingenuous" and "bad faith" responses concerns about misuse of personal data. The committee concluded that Facebook's business model is predicated on providing abusive access to individual's data without their consent, noting, in particular, the company's role in spreading misinformation to sway voter intention.

"Far from Facebook acting against "sketchy" or "abusive" apps, of which action it has produced no evidence at all, it, in fact, worked with such apps as an intrinsic part of its business model," the committee argued. "This explains why it recruited the people who created them, such as Joseph Chancellor [the co-founder of GSR, the developer which sold Facebook user data to Cambridge Analytica]. Nothing in Facebook's actions supports the statements of Mark Zuckerberg who, we believe, lapsed into "PR crisis mode", when its real business model was exposed.

"This is just one example of the bad faith which we believe justifies governments holding a business such as Facebook at arms' length. It seems clear to us that Facebook acts only when serious breaches become public. This is what happened in 2015 and 2018," it added.

Karim Palant, UK public policy manager for Facebook, told TechCrunch: "We are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee's recommendation for electoral law reform. But we're not waiting. We have already made substantial changes so that every political ad on Facebook has to be authorized, state who is paying for it and then is stored in a searchable archive for seven years.

"No other channel for political advertising is as transparent and offers the tools that we do," Palant added. 

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