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

Unlocking collaboration: Making software work better together

How to improve collaboration and agility with the right tech

Download now

Four steps to field service excellence

How to thrive in the experience economy

Download now

Six things a developer should know about Postgres

Why enterprises are choosing PostgreSQL

Download now

The path to CX excellence for B2B services

The four stages to thrive in the experience economy

Download now

Recommended

Facebook achieves its goal of 100% green energy
social media

Facebook achieves its goal of 100% green energy

15 Apr 2021
Facebook and Google plan new undersea cable to Asia
Network & Internet

Facebook and Google plan new undersea cable to Asia

30 Mar 2021
Facebook Workplace review: Are you ready for Facebook’s social office?
collaboration

Facebook Workplace review: Are you ready for Facebook’s social office?

18 Mar 2021
Facebook may have overpaid privacy fine by $4.9B
data protection

Facebook may have overpaid privacy fine by $4.9B

11 Feb 2021

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
University of Hertfordshire's entire IT system offline after cyber attack
cyber attacks

University of Hertfordshire's entire IT system offline after cyber attack

15 Apr 2021
NSA uncovers new "critical" flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server
servers

NSA uncovers new "critical" flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server

14 Apr 2021