UK officials accuse Facebook of violating privacy laws

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UK lawmakers have accused Facebook of violating data privacy and competition laws in a report on social media disinformation that also says CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed “contempt” toward parliament by not appearing before them.

The UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said in a report published Monday that a trove of internal Facebook emails it reviewed demonstrated that the social media platform had “intentionally and knowingly” violated both data privacy and competition laws.

The cache of documents reviewed by the committee, some of which include correspondence between Zuckerberg and company executives, stem from a lawsuit filed in California against Facebook. The committee obtained the documents late last year from a small app company called Six4Three that is behind the suit.

According to the committee, the documents show that Facebook was “willing to override its users’ privacy settings in order to transfer data” to app developers. The lawmakers also claim the documents show the social network was able to “starve” some developers of data and force them out of business.

“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 report said.

In response to the report, Facebook said it had not breached data protection or competition laws. Karim Palant, Facebook’s UK public policy manager, said in a statement that the company “supports effective privacy legislation” and is also open to “meaningful regulation.”

Facebook said in December that the documents from the Six4Three lawsuit had been “selectively leaked” to tell “only one side of the story.” CNN and other news outlets had asked the California court to make the documents public.

The allegations are the latest headache for the social media giant, which has come under intense scrutiny from policymakers in the United States and around the world following a series of data scandals including Cambridge Analytica.

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