Facebook refutes MP claims it knew about Russian data harvesting in 2014

After some confusion, it appears claims that Facebook knew about Russian data harvesting in 2014 appear to be false

Earlier this week, IT Pro reported the seizure of Facebook documents by Parliament's Serjeant at Arms in a London hotel. In a review of the seized documents, one British lawmaker has revealed Facebook knew about Russia's data harvesting as early as 2014.

In an internal email from a Facebook engineer, one of the documents that were seized by Parliament from the founder of Six4Three, reportedly contained information which highlights suspicious activity from Russian-based entities relating to the exploitation of a feature which allowed them to harvest large amounts of data.

Facebook had previously maintained that they were only aware of the data harvesting in 2016, after the US election had taken place. But, Damian Collins who heads the committee of British lawmakers which compelled the founder of Six4Three to hand over the documents it acquired in legal discovery, said the company was aware of Russia's conduct two years before.

Collins and his committee conducted a hearing on Tuesday in which Richard Allen, vice president of policy solutions at Facebook said in his testimony that he would not discuss the documents, Bloomberg reports.

During the hearing, to which Mark Zuckerberg didn't attend, Allen was lambasted by all in attendance with many asking him why he attended instead of Zuckerberg. Allen admitted that Facebook had abused public trust and said Facebook would accept a little more regulation.

Since these reports, Facebook has issued IT Pro a series of redacted emails which seem to verify its claims that an investigation into potential Russian data harvesting were taken out of context. In a series of exchanges, the emails show that a mass of calls were made to Facebook APIs but didn't come from Russian-linked entities after all, instead, they all came from Pinterest.

The emails show that, at the time, Pinterest was migrating to a new version of their API which potentially caused a massive spike in the calls it was making to Facebook. "You'll see we looked into this at the time and determined that the calls to the API were all legitimate API calls from Pinterest and not from Russia," said a Facebook spokesperson. "We also determined the volume of actual calls to be around 6m and that the suggestion of 'billions' was inaccurate."

One of the earlier emails in the chain suggested that three billion calls were being made per day when in reality only six million successful calls were made as well as 40 million unsuccessful ones.

So it seems the situation has been blown out of proportion, Facebook wasn't actually being targeted by Russians in 2014, two years before they said they became aware of actual Russian data meddling.

After the nightmarish year its PR department has had, this comes a breath of a fresh air. This is, however, only the first of the seized documents that have been covered by the media, there is still the possibility that the documents hold key details about Facebook's knowledge of its potential privacy flaws in 2016.

Featured Resources

Managing security risk and compliance in a challenging landscape

How key technology partners grow with your organisation

Download now

Evaluate your order-to-cash process

15 recommended metrics to benchmark your O2C operations

Download now

AI 360: Hold, fold, or double down?

How AI can benefit your business

Download now

Getting started with Azure Red Hat OpenShift

A developer’s guide to improving application building and deployment capabilities

Download now

Recommended

Big tech companies put political donations on hold following Capitol riots
Business strategy

Big tech companies put political donations on hold following Capitol riots

12 Jan 2021
The IT Pro Podcast: The power of disinformation
social media

The IT Pro Podcast: The power of disinformation

11 Dec 2020
Justice Department sues Facebook for discriminating against US workers
Policy & legislation

Justice Department sues Facebook for discriminating against US workers

7 Dec 2020
CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google face Senate hearing
Policy & legislation

CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google face Senate hearing

28 Oct 2020

Most Popular

School laptops sent by government arrive loaded with malware
malware

School laptops sent by government arrive loaded with malware

21 Jan 2021
How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD
operating systems

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

21 Jan 2021
How to recover deleted emails in Gmail
email delivery

How to recover deleted emails in Gmail

6 Jan 2021