Thursday 14 October 2021 9:26 am

Watchdog scrutinises Facebook whistleblower claims for UK law breach

The UK’s data-privacy watchdog will be reviewing allegations made by whistleblower Frances Haugen to check if Facebook has broken UK law.

The ICO has confirmed that it will follow up ex-Facebook employee Haugen’s explosive revelations made at a hearing into big tech held by the US Senate.

Haugen has claimed that Facebook made no effort to introduce safeguards despite being aware its products damaged the mental health of teenage girls and were being used to encourage ethnic violence and racial hatred.

“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,” information commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the BBC.

“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?” she continued.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied the accuracy of Haugen’s allegations. He said, “Most of us just don’t recognise the false picture of the company that is being painted.”

However, Denham was undeterred and intends to check if Facebook’s practices comply with “a new children’s code” rolled out by the ICO to “protect kids online.”

“I want to see if these allegations point to any contravention of UK law and then I will take action” Denham confirmed.

Haugen stressed the need for greater regulatory scrutiny of Facebook during a Senate hearing. “Facebook’s closed design means it has no real oversight,” she said.

“Only Facebook knows how it personalises your feed for you,” Haugen continued, stating that Facebook “hides behind walls.”

Ms Haugen will evidence to the UK Parliament’s committee on the draft Online Safety Bill next Monday.

Read more: Whistleblower Frances Haugen: Facebook extends users’ stay to drive advertising