The co-founder of a software company was ordered by a judge to surrender his laptop to a forensic expert after admitting he turned over confidential documents about Facebook Inc. to the U.K. Parliament in violation of a U.S. court order.
Sensitive internal Facebook records that were supposed to remain sealed in a California lawsuit were leaked to a parliamentary committee by one of the founders of app Six4Three, which sued Facebook three years ago over access to friends’ data.
A judge in state court in Redwood City, California, stopped short of holding the company in contempt, as Facebook requested, but said after a hearing Friday that he may issue a contempt order and sanctions at a later date.
“What has happened here is unconscionable,” California Superior Court Judge V. Raymond Swope said to Six4Three co-founder Ted Kramer and his attorneys during the hearing. “Your conduct is not well-taken by this court. It’s one thing to serve other needs that are outside the scope of this lawsuit. But you don’t serve those needs, or satisfy those curiosities, when there’s a court order preventing you to do so.”
Facebook wants the laptop to be evaluated to determine what happened in the U.K., to what extent the court order was breached and how much of its confidential information has been divulged to the committee.
Kramer has admitted to traveling to London where he claims he was pressured to hand over the information to Damian Collins, who heads Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
At a hearing in London on Nov. 27, Collins cited an internal email retrieved from Kramer as part of the committee’s investigation into the impact of fake news. Richard Allan, vice president of policy solutions at Facebook, said he wouldn’t discuss the documents because of the court order.
Collins, who has said he’s free under U.K. law to release the internal records, said the committee hoped to publish them in the coming week.
Facebook accused Kramer’s attorneys of complicity in the release, arguing that Kramer could only have access to the sealed files in a Dropbox account if attorneys gave it to him.
A third-party forensics team will pick up Kramer’s laptop, along with his attorneys’ computers, on Friday night. He didn’t bring it to court.
“He can voluntarily carry it to Parliament, but when your honor schedules a hearing the computer isn’t here?” said Joshua Lerner, an attorney for Facebook.
Thomas Scaramellino, a member of Kramer’s legal team and a third-party consultant, has also been ordered to turn over his laptop but his whereabouts were unknown Friday.
Kramer’s attorneys informed the judge that they could no longer represent Kramer, who they said violated the court order without consulting his legal counsel. Swope ordered the attorneys to remain part of Kramer’s legal team until the matter is resolved.