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UK lawmakers just released a trove of Facebook emails

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There's trouble for Facebook across the pond.
There’s trouble for Facebook across the pond.

Image: European Parliament / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Just like our own Facebook profiles, Facebook’s past activities keep coming back to haunt them.

The UK has released a 250 page document containing private emails from Facebook, including communiques from Mark Zuckerberg himself. 

The emails come from a California court case, brought by the app maker Six4Three about Facebook’s treatment of third party apps. According to Bloomberg, the California courts sealed the emails, but the UK compelled the Six4Three founder to hand over a laptop containing the emails, which were acquired during discovery, when the founder visited London. Quite the holiday.

UK Member of Parliament (MP) Damian Collins, the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that is investigating Facebook, announced that he had received the documents on November 25, and was considering what to do with them. He went with publication, and tweeted the decision on Twitter early Wednesday morning. 

“We don’t feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents,” Collins tweeted.

The documents contain details of how Facebook specifically dealt with third party app makers. They raise questions about whether Facebook was exercising power in a way that made it a monopoly, whether it obscured privacy functions, and more.

The access Facebook gave to third party apps came to the fore as an issue when news broke that Cambridge Analytica was able to acquire the data of 87 million Facebook users, thanks to a third party app that accessed the data of your friends, created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan.

Facebook is maintaining that it “never sold people’s data.” But emails from the same case, leaked by a poorly redacted legal document, throw even that cornerstone of Facebook’s policy (and talking points) into question.

Facebook has taken a lot of strides to better the level of privacy, discourse, and elections integrity on its platform. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still be held accountable for, and judged by, its past actions. These emails just make it a bit clearer what those actions were.

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