It serves as a good warning that when doing business in any country you need to abide by the written and unwritten codes of conduct for that country. Two other less pleasant examples are Assange and Khashoggi.
I could imagine that there are implications for tech companies now operating in the UK if they’re subject to raids by the British police force. It sets a dangerous precedent.
Facebook in the UK is wholly subject to the decisions of Facebook in the US. He may not be a British subject, but his business operates in the UK. All business in the UK should be subject to UK law and regulation and the officers accountable. It should not matter if the law is old or the company has a head office elsewhere. Same for companies operating in other countries.
If I choose to start operating my business in the USA I would reasonably expect to be subject to US law, and accountable to it.
And before you ask what's wrong with that, let's not forget that Saudi Arabia, China, and I'm sure 5 other countries have forced Facebook/Google/Microsoft/... to hand over data and then used it to execute gays and dissidents. Even in the UK case, it's pushing hard for these companies to just hand over all data they have to their secret service (not even limited to UK citizens).
You know, to "protect the children".
Nations, including and often starting with the USA, want internet companies to obey their laws. That shouldn't still surprise.
In the case of less savoury regimes I would prefer that Facebook, Google or whoever would respond ethically and choose to withdraw rather than compromise thousands of people to make a few extra dollars. Better yet I'd prefer that data sharing with such places was legislated against.
They are registered companies. They have head offices. They have regional offices. They own entire datacentres. They are traded on stock exchanges. They trade for money with customers in countries all over the world. They are not above the law.
Legally, is Facebook any different than say, 3M or IBM? Both are US corporations with offices, manufacturing and distribution facilities in the UK. They are obviously subject to UK law. The precise location of particular data stored by the company, and servers accessing the data, seems a very odd criterion upon which to argue that the company is not subject to the rule of law. The company exists as a legal entity in the UK, it has offices and employees, and customers. It does have a presence. And it should absolutely be required to obey the law of the land.
(A few years ago, I might have had a slightly different view. But companies like Facebook and Google have taken such gross liberties with the law, and even the fundamental functioning of democracy itself, that I think there's an urgent need for them to be reigned in, harshly. They brought it entirely upon themselves.)
It's like how your little website may do things that are not ok in country X and you don't care, but if you want people and businesses from country X to be able to spend money on your website then you need to care.
Don't you think the U.S. would not have done the same (probably would've done much sooner) if a company was repeatedly turning up its nose and thumbing it?
This is kind of tautologous; if you're in the UK, suspected of having committed a crime, or certain other infractions (health and safety etc), you can be raided. It's more surprising when the FBI managed to do a raid in New Zealand.
I don’t think a dangerous precedent has been set. I think foreign tech should be aware right from the start, if you break the law you and your staff will be punished.
It’s the same deal for UK firms working in US. HSBC was quite rightly punished for money laundering in the US.
So if it chooses to have someone's head removed for spurious reasons it does in principle have the power (this would be an Act of Attainder, not used since the 18th Century, I think, and held to be so oppressive it's outlawed specifically in the US Constitution).
In practice, it's quite a lot more nuanced than that. Parliament is constrained by both politics (the public would be outraged by an Act of Attainder), international commitments (our EU membership, in particular, comes with supervening law which would make that a very costly action at a minimum), and historical practice.
The Facebook thing is a good example of these constraints. There's no question that Parliament could vote itself powerful and enforceable subpoena powers. And it has in centuries past. But it's also not used them recently, and done various other bits of legislating (e.g. the human rights act) which aren't compatible with arbitrary action. If the Commons tried to use its inherent power of imprisonment to enforce a subpoena, it might be overturned by a judge issuing a writ of Habeus Corpus on the grounds that the power is obsolete and in breach of the HRA. In principle, Parliament as a whole could pass an Act to prevent this, but it hasn't. So a lot of the checks that are constitutional in the US are conventional and institutional in the UK.
Finally, there are absolutely legal checks on the powers of the executive, which are enforced by the courts much as they would be in the US, though the source of these is basically law rather than constitution.
1) Parliament is supreme, not the PM. So extreme acts require the consent (in advance) of both the Commons (which has a built-in government majority but does sometimes have its own opinions - see Brexit) and the Lords (which can be unpredictable).
2) Norms are powerful in the Westminster system (sometimes in the form of so-called constitutional conventions) and surprisingly effective at stopping bad behaviour.
3) We've developed fairly strong judicial review, so the courts restrain illegal behaviour by the government. Although the law can be changed, it turns out this still stops a lot of abuses.
4) The evil PM would still have to successfully govern, which requires either the consent of the governed or massive force (at which point they'd need the active support of the military as well, and the military in Britain have stayed out of active politics since the 17th Century - another strong norm).
5) The Queen retains reserve powers, including the right to veto bills (she's theoretically the third 'house' of Parliament). She probably gets to do this exactly once before being deposed, and an attempted auto-coup is one of the more likely outcomes.
It's an odd system, but historically it actually works well. I spent some time interning in the US Congress expecting to find the system much better than ours, but I came away believing that a strong separation of powers in a Presidential system may create more problems than it solves.
Indeed they can, the Supreme court merely interprets the law. If congress decides to change the law then the Supreme Court's interpretation is moot.
These days changing the constitution is politically infeasible so it may seem this way - but ultimate power rests with Congress.
As the only body capable of updating the text of the law they have ultimate power. That they chose to constrain it was an altruistic act of a sovereign body. But only they (and their predecessor the continental congress) had the power to restrict themselves. The courts can only hold them to the text they themselves wrote.
The limits on the U.S. government exist because we put them in our organic law (the Constitution) which is not solely the prerogative of the federal congress (or any lone state).
Remember this the next time someone questions the fact we're a federal republic in the context of a short-term setback.
Anybody who has been following the DCMS Committee's work in the UK knows what the cause is - Facebook has been lying through its teeth to the committee and refusing to cooperate.
Hell, the Committee has had to organise an international super-committee with half a dozen other national legislatures in order to pressure Facebook to testify.
> David Godkin, Six4Three’s lead counsel said: “We believe the public has a right to see the evidence and are confident the evidence clearly demonstrates the truth of our allegations, and much more.”
I have little-to-no legal understanding, but it seems to me that it was in Six4Three's interest to have these documents seized and perhaps released to the public? I see others here talking of how bold of a move this was for Parliament and that it wouldn't have worked if Six4Three simply refused. However, if Six4Three was trying to get the documents released anyways, was this really that bold of a move? Seems to me its more just giving Six4Three an excuse to leak the documents.
Wow. I've never heard of the British parliament being this assertive before.
I am surprised that he actually complied with this order, especially as the article says the documents were under a US court order restricting their dissemination/publication, but maybe what happened is the Serjeant at Arms appeared with these scary warnings, his lawyers didn't know quite what to do, so they just did what they were told even if they probably didn't have to.
It will be interesting to see what the US court makes of its order being broken due to the order of a foreign legislature.
A source on the status of these powers: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18875266
If they’re that key there was th3 risk of the computer being stolen, hard drive encryption aside.
Sending them in town has no close equivalent in the US, maybe threatening someone to be in Contempt of the Supreme Court.
The US House of Representatives and the US Senate also have Sergeants at Arms:
There have been multiple occasions in recent decades when, in theory, either house of Congress could have resorted to enforcement of a Congressional subpoena by sending its Sergeant at Arms to arrest the non-responsive party. The most recent occurrence was early in Trump's term when several of his high officials refused to appear before Congressional committees which sought to question them; there was talk of whether Congress would provoke a showdown by issuing and enforcing subpoenas. And a court ruling during the George W. Bush administration confirmed Congress could compel members of the executive branch to appear and answer questions:
Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes [7/3/2018]
Facebook really aren't afraid of a British man in tights or
willing to reform without regulation. That's why Zuckerberg
hasn't turned up to the Commons, & they are appealing the UK
ICO's important but tiny fine. Time for the EU to move on
them, and I believe that's inevitable.
What's more interesting is how the committee knew the documents were in the UK. It wouldn't aurprise me if the UK intelligence services tipped the off, with tacit apprival from the government.
The person was in the UK, and they ordered them to produce specifically protected non-UK documents that they don't own, simply have access to.
To give an analogy, imagine taking a random contractor to your company, who is passing through the UK, and forcing them, under pain of jail time, to login to your VPN and produce records that the contractor happens to have access to, but doesn't own, control, do anything with etc.
Now imagine if that contractor was really an officer of a company suing you, and the access was also being forced upon your company and only being allowed on a temporary basis by a court.
The only reason they would ever get away with such a thing is because everyone hates facebook.
Six4three can and should be held liable in a US court for this (though that is unlikely).
2. The reason to assume is it because the story essentially implies it.
They didn't stop the guy and confiscate the stuff he had, they ordered him to produce them. If he had them with them, they wouldn't have to order him to do that. They would just escort him to his hotel room and take them :)
3. The story is also wrong about contempt, etc, at least on the set of facts they present.
The correct answer is to say "I am a citizen of the US, i am not the legal holder or custodian of these documents, i would like to speak to my embassy immediately". Let it be fought over in court.
Especially given our president, he would have made a big scene over the UK doing this to a US citizen, minimum.
Six4three LLC is a US company, its founder, ted kramer, is, as far as i can tell from court docs, a us citizen. They are not represented by an UK law firm.
(FWIW: all of this is why i suspect this was secret deal by six4three done to embarrass facebook)
I agree it seems this was a pretty major incident and people are letting their hatred of Zuckerberg blind them to it.
In essence the 643 guy was threatened with UK jail if he didn't produce the documents. And threatened with US jail if he did. Over something that he did not own or had any part in creating. I'm no expert but it seems like a rights violation. He didn't do anything illegal.
Do embassies really step in in this case? If not, what would be the correct process to untangle oneself.
If they let you, your embassy should be helping (at the very least, understand your rights/options, etc. They generally will not provide legal advice but can give you an overview)
If they don't let you, then either:
1. What is happening is very very illegal (IE they are not supposed to be detaining you)
2. You are about to be accused of something so serious they think it's worth creating an incident over.
3. You are in a banana republic :)
Outside of #3, it's valuable to understand where you stand anyway.
I've always known this to be good advice in a criminal context, but not political ones like this unless to relay that the USG in general should intervene. I have not heard that the guy was detained.
I really don't think an embassy has the juice to go up against UK Parliament, the current US Ambassador to the UK is a old-money Republican fundraiser with a history degree, whose most recent accomplishment is owning the New York Jets NFL team.
Also, do we know that he didn't contact the embassy?
The rest I agree with, but the goal would be to give Facebook a chance to intervene
The only reason? Can't it be because FB's behavior was criminal, and/or that FB's behavior has already created an international incident?
Six4three can and should be held liable in a US court for this
Under what principle?
As for holding them liable, this is a very clear violation of a protective order either way. The correct answer, as I said, is to take it to court, where Facebook, you know, the rightful owner of the documents, can intervene.
If he actually was in possession of the documents, I would definitely push hard for sanctions.
I mean, I see women showing their hair and ankles in public all the time, does that mean I can take a stick to them like mutawwi'a? No, because those laws simply do not reach the US.
If you're only referring to the SixWhatever guy's liabilities within US law, then I suppose we'll see how that plays out.
So let's say he can't access it from the UK. The UK guys tell him "give us the documents or you go to jail". Well then he could ask an employee who is currently in the US to unlock them for him, maybe even give them his password. Basically, there is usually a way to get things done if there is a threat of jail pending.
The greater issue is how the UK was allowed to even do something like this to a person who hadn't done anything illegal.
Another reply suggested that he should have contacted the US embassy and ask that he is forced to commit a crime in the US by UK. This would have lifted it to a diplomatic level.
From the circumstances it sounds possible that he wanted the documents published and was happy to be forced.
As far as i understand (from my British friends): They generally can compel people inside the UK to produce papers, but would not otherwise have jurisdiction to order much here.
Instead, they ordered a person in the UK to produce non-UK protected documents.
So what they did here is pretty extraordinary, and if everyone didn't hate facebook, would likely cause a very serious diplomatic incident.
One of the underlying problems is that they aren't six4three's documents to produce. They are not the owner or custodian of these documents.
They simply have access under a protected set of circumstances by court order.
This is quite literally compelled espionage:
"Espionage or spying, is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information."
This wasn't the UK government, though, but Parliament through its Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
Parliament doesn't allow government ministers to be members of parliamentary committees, only backbenchers, as Committees are one of the main ways that Parliament holds the government to account.
In American usage, "the government" is the totality of the body which exercises sovereign authority. All MPs, minister or backbencher, are part of the government, because Parliament is a government body. Similarly, any official action by any part of Parliament is an action of the British government.
Bluntly, Parliament is Parliament. (Her Majesty's) Government overlaps it, but is not the same. The DCMS committee in particular scrutinises government, but isn't part of it. I guess you could describe Parliament as being able to exercise (a few) State powers, but they really aren't a branch of government on the US theory.
A committee is not of government as it will include MPs from all sides, and seeks non-partisan balance no matter which party is currently in government. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee currently has 5 members from each of the main parties and one from the LibDems.
Committees can, at times, be quite strident in their criticism of government.
Das wage ich zu bezweifeln.
In other words, I ought to be able to specify that I only allow my activity to be stored for one week, anything older than that should be erased from all databases and backups. Same with personal information, controlled and owned by the user, not the service.
You also aren't allowed to dictate how specifically your data is processed, so you can't just boss them around. You only get to choose which data, for which purposes, by whom, and only if the processing requires  your consent.
Maybe thats why EU politicians are starting to be harsher about this. They feel powerless.
I don't use Google anymore, so the list only has 362 at the moment, but I keep adding more as I find them. Pull requests are welcome!