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Facebook whistleblower’s claims to be checked to see if tech giant broke UK law

·2-min read

The UK’s data protection watchdog has written to a Facebook whistleblower, requesting her full evidence to see whether the social networking giant breached UK law.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the BBC she had written to former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.

Ms Haugen has claimed the technology giant’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy”, accusing the firm of refusing to change its products because executives elevate profits over safety.

She produced tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving the company.

Elizabeth Denham
Elizabeth Denham (ICO press office/PA)

Ms Haugen is due to give evidence to a UK parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft Online Safety Bill – and its plans to more strictly regulate tech firms and social media – on October 25.

But Ms Denham said she was also keen to see Ms Haugen’s full evidence to examine it for violations of UK law, particularly in relation to the online protection of children.

“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,” she told BBC News.

“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.”

Facebook has rejected Ms Haugen’s claims, with founder Mark Zuckerberg saying her attacks on the company were “misrepresenting” the work it does.

He said the company “cares deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health” and that Ms Haugen’s recent evidence to a US congressional committee “just doesn’t reflect the company we know”.

“At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritise profit over safety and well-being. That’s just not true,” he added.

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