Facebook was just accused of ‘concealing’ evidence about its enormous data breach

Facebook protestors outside the Mike Schroepfer hearing

caption
Facebook protestors outside the Mike Schroepfer hearing
source
Reuters

  • Facebook has been accused of hiding evidence from a powerful group of British parliamentarians.
  • UK lawmakers said Facebook executives Simon Milner and Monika Bickert were not frank about the Cambridge Analytica data breach during a hearing in February.
  • Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said it is possible Milner and Bickert would not have known about the breach.

Facebook has been accused of concealing evidence about the Cambridge Analytica scandal from a powerful group of British parliamentarians.

UK lawmakers on the parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee (DCMSC) said Facebook hid information about the breach during a February hearing in Washington DC, despite the company being aware of the issue in December 2015.

During that February hearing (a transcript of which is here), Facebook’s EMEA Policy Director Simon Milner and Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert were asked about Cambridge Analytica repeatedly. Both deflected in their answers.

In one exchange, Bickert was asked whether she was aware of a breach like the one involving Cambridge Analytica. “I don’t have an answer for you on that,” she said.

In another, Milner was pressed on how Cambridge Analytica could have gathered Facebook data. He said: “There can be all kinds of things that these organisations do. I think what data they have would be a good question to ask them, rather than us. We have no insight on that.”

The fact the Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of millions of Facebook users was not public knowledge until being exposed by journalists in March. But, of course, Facebook knew about the incident in December 2015 and failed to alert users and the wider public.

DCMSC member and Labour MP Ian Lucas said on Thursday that they had “concealed the truth.” He added: “We are a parliamentary committee, and Facebook concealed evidence to us as an organisation on that day.” This was echoed by DCMSC Chair Damian Collins, who said he didn’t feel the committee was given “straight answers.”

Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer.

caption
Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer.
source
parliamentlive.tv

The lawmakers were speaking during a five-hour-long interrogation of Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer on Thursday. Schroepfer was unable to explain why Milner and Bickert did not provide straight answers to the committee, but said it was possible they would not have known about the Cambridge Analytica breach.

Referring to Milner specifically, Schroepfer said, “I don’t know if he had all the information,” adding that the now-vice-president is an “honest person.”

Collins remains keen to hear evidence from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and said he will be issuing another invitation for him to appear in front of the DCMSC. Politico reported on Thursday that Zuckerberg is close to agreeing a deal to give evidence to European Parliament.