Monday, 04 March 2019 09:52

Facebook lobbied govts for lax privacy laws: claim

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Facebook lobbied govts for lax privacy laws: claim Pixabay

Leaked internal Facebook documents show that the company was targeting politicians in a number of countries, promising them investments and incentives in exchange for pushing against privacy laws on the social media giant's behalf.

The documents are said to come from a case filed in California against Facebook by the application developer Six4Three, the same company from which the British Parliament seized documents in November last year.

The Guardian reported on Sunday that the leaked files showed Facebook was involved in lobbying lawmakers and regulators in the US, Canada, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Argentina, Malaysia and the EU.

No link was mentioned between the documents seized in November and the current crop. Britain's culture, media and sport committee chairman Damian Collins was at the heart of the move to seize the documents in November.

Parliament sent a sergeant at arms to the hotel where the founder of Six4Three was staying, and gave him two hours to hand over the documents.

He refused to do so and was promptly escorted to Parliament where it was made plain to him that he would be fined or even jailed if he did not hand over the documents.

In Sunday's report, it was claimed that the documents showed Facebook tried to head off overly restrictive clauses in the General Data Protection Regulation that came into force in May last year.

It was also said to have used the memoir written by its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg - a book titled Lean In - to establish itself on a friendly footing with women who were part of the European Commission and whom it found to be unsympathetic to its cause.

But the most damaging fact was that Facebook threatened not to invest in countries which did not have laws that allowed it to do what it wanted.

Among the European officials accused of being lobbied was the former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who was described as a friend of the company.

Contacted for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context.

"As we’ve said, these selective leaks came from a lawsuit where Six4Three, the creators of an app known as Pikinis, hoped to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app’s users. These documents have been sealed by a Californian court so we're not able to discuss them in detail.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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