Recently unsealed court transcripts relating to a lawsuit over Facebook’s mishandling of user data reveals that company engineers claim to have no idea what personal information they collect on users or where it’s stored.
The Intercept reports that in March, two veteran Facebook engineers found themselves being questioned about the company’s collection of user data in a hearing for the ongoing lawsuit over the company’s alleged mishandling of private user information relating to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
A transcript of the hearing was recently unsealed and reveals that the engineers were questioned about what sort of user information Facebook stores and where it is located. The engineers’ had a simple response — they don’t know.
During a hearing with special master Daniel Garrie, a court-appointed subject-matter expert tasked with resolving a disclosure impasse, Garrie attempted to get the company to provide a definitive accounting of where Facebook user data might be stored across the company’s 55 subsystems. Both Facebook engineers struggled to even guess where that information might be stored.
Garrie stated: “I’m just trying to understand at the most basic level from this list what we’re looking at,” to which Facebook engineering director Eugene Zarashaw responded: “I don’t believe there’s a single person that exists who could answer that question. It would take a significant team effort to even be able to answer that question.”
When asked about how Facebook might track down all the data associated with a single user account, Zarashaw responded: “It would take multiple teams on the ad side to track down exactly the — where the data flows. I would be surprised if there’s even a single person that can answer that narrow question conclusively.”