Facebook whistleblower claims checked for breach of UK law

3 days ago 40

By Elizabeth Needham-Bennett
BBC News

Image source, Matt McClain / POOL

Image caption, Whistleblower Frances Haugen warned about the risks to children from Facebook's products

The data-privacy watchdog has written to a Facebook whistleblower, requesting her full evidence to see whether the technology company has broken UK law.

The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, says she wants to analyse the documents from a UK perspective, particularly relating to children.

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen claimed the social-media company hid "behind walls" about how it used data.

But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg rejected her allegations.

"Most of us just don't recognise the false picture of the company that is being painted," he said.

'Take action'

Ms Denham, who is stepping down next month, told BBC News: "We're looking very closely about what is publicly available right now from Frances's testimony - but I've also written to her to ask for access to the full reports of her allegations.

"Because what I want to do with that information is analyse it from the UK's perspective - are these harms applicable in the UK, especially through the lens of children?

"We have rolled out a new children's code, which specifies design consideration to protect kids online.

"I want to see if these allegations point to any contravention of UK law and then I will take action."

Image caption, Elizabeth Denham promised to take action if the evidence showed Facebook had contravened UK law

The whistleblower claimed Facebook's products could pose a risk to children's mental health and stoke divisions in society.

"Facebook's closed design means it has no real oversight," Ms Haugen, who used to work on the company's algorithmic products, told a US Senate committee.

"Only Facebook knows how it personalises your feed for you.

"Facebook hides behind walls that keep researchers and regulators from understanding the true dynamics of their system."

Ms Haugen is to give evidence to the UK Parliament's online safety bill committee on 25 October.

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