A U.K. politician said Facebook was aware that Russian-linked organizations were harvesting data from the social media giant, since October 2014, according to Bloomberg. The Russian individuals reportedly utilized a feature that allowed advertisers to collect copious amounts of data. Facebook previously said it was unaware of the activity until after the 2016 election.
The lawmaker, Damian Collins, serves as the head of a British political committee looking into the impact of fake news. He reportedly read an email from an engineer at Facebook that spotlighted questionable Russian-linked data harvesting.
The email was obtained from a U.S. software company called Six4Three, after the committee had asked it to provide a trove of documents, when the company founder was in London on a business trip. The founder, Ted Kramer, got the documents as part of a lawsuit against Facebook.
“We allege that Facebook itself is the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry,” Kramer told CNN.
Facebook responded that the documents were taken out of context.
“The engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity,” the company told Bloomberg.
Facebook’s Vice President of Policy Solutions Richard Allan testified before the committee on Tuesday (Nov. 27). He refused to discuss the documents. Bloomberg reported that the documents were sealed by California courts.
The British politicians wanted to speak to Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, but he didn’t attend the hearing. There was a place card with his name on it in the room.
Allan explained the absence of his boss: “I have a role supporting my company as it tries to grapple with the issues we are discussing today, and when we are trying to decide where senior officers of the company should be, we need to balance that out.”
Collins said he wanted to publish the documents in the upcoming week.