A United Kingdom parliamentary committee has used ancient legal powers to seize internal Facebook papers as part of its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a report in the Observer.
"The documents seized reportedly relate to the Cambridge Analytica scandal", and "it is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg".
In a waspish reply to Facebook's European public policy chief, Richard Allan, Damian Collins pointed out that "as a member of Parliament yourself" he should be familiar with its powers to order the production of documents and publish them with the protection of parliamentary privilege. A security representative was sent to his hotel with a two-hour deadline to give the papers up.
Collins' seizure, however, did not take place against Facebook itself; rather, the documents have been seized from U.S. software development company Six4Three after having been obtained as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit against Facebook. Six4Three is using the documents in a case in California, where they are subject to a court order prohibiting their sharing owing to the risk of prejudicing proceedings.
Mr Collins told the Observer: "We are in uncharted territory".
Allan was responding to Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus, who said the social media giant has "lost the trust of the worldwide community to self-police", and that lawmakers have to start looking at ways to hold the company accountable. They want to scrutinize Facebook over its handling of data privacy, most notably involving consultancy Cambridge Analytica's improper use of information from more than 87 million Facebook accounts to manipulate elections.
'We have very serious questions for Facebook.
"We have requested that the DCMS council avoid exploring them and to return them to advise or to Facebook".
Lawmakers from nine countries grilled a Facebook executive on Tuesday as part of an global hearing at Britain's parliament on disinformation and "fake news". "In ignoring the inquiries of seven national parliaments, Mark Zuckerberg brought this escalation upon himself, as there was no other way to get this critical information", wrote Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who was previously the director of research at Cambridge Analytica.
"We are also interested to know whether the policies of Facebook, as expressed within these documents, are consistent with the public statements the company has made on the same issues".