Facebook documents have been seized in an unusually aggressive step by the UK parliament.
A number of internal documents belonging to the social media giant were taken using parliament’s legal powers as MPs continue to probe the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
The documents are reported to contain information on the company’s data and privacy controls before the massive breach was made public.
Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, told The Observer: “We are in uncharted territory. This is an unprecedented move but it’s an unprecedented situation. We’ve failed to get answers from Facebook and we believe the documents contain information of very high public interest.”
The documents were taken when the boss of a US software company – who are involved in court action against Facebook in the US – came to the UK on business, according to the newspaper.
Using a rare parliamentary power, a serjeant at arms was dispatched to the businessman’s hotel and issued a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with the order.
The businessman allegedly did not comply and was taken to parliament and warned he risked fines and imprisonment if he did not hand over the documents.
Mr Collins said Facebook “has not answered our questions about who knew what, when with regards to the Cambridge Analytica scandal”.
“We have followed this court case in America and we believed these documents contained answers to some of the questions we have been seeking about the use of data, especially by external developers.”
Facebook told the paper: “The materials obtained by the DCMS committee are subject to a protective order of the San Mateo Superior Court restricting their disclosure.
“We have asked the DCMS committee to refrain from reviewing them and to return them to counsel or to Facebook.
“We have no further comment.”