Judge slams bikini-app makers lawyers in legal clash with Facebook

EnlargeGetty Images | Iain Masterton

At the conclusion of a tense hearing that lasted over 3.5 hours, a San Mateo County judge ruled Friday that a top executive of an embattled and now-defunct bikini-related app company now must surrender his electronic devices for forensic inspection.

San Mateo County Judge V. Raymond Swope ordered Six4Three's managing director, Ted Kramer, to hand over his computer and mobile devices by 9pm PT on Friday evening.

In addition, Thomas Scaramellino, one of Kramer's lawyers, also had to give up his electronic devices by 12pm PT on Saturday. It is not clear whether the two men—who did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment late Friday evening—complied with the orders.

The two orders came 10 days after the revelation that Kramer strangely shared a number of files that had previously been kept secret in an ongoing lawsuit that dates back years.

In 2015, Six4Three sued Facebook in San Mateo County Superior Court. The company alleged "fraudulent and anti-competitive schemes" in relation to changes made by Facebook in 2014 to the way that access to its Graph API worked. Those changes quickly ended Six4Three's business model on its short-lived "Pikinis" app, which was designed to identify photos of bikini-clad Facebook users. The case remains set for an April 25, 2019, trial date in the county court in Redwood City, California, roughly five miles north from Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park.

The lawsuit gained new life last month when Kramer was confronted by Damian Collins, a British member of parliament currently leading an investigation into Facebook. The MP demanded that Kramer hand over certain documents obtained during the course of the lawsuit.

However, those documents were already under protective order by the San Mateo court. Nevertheless, Kramer, according to his lawyer's testimony, "panicked:" on November 20, Kramer handed over a USB stick with some materials to Collins, who has vowed to publish them soon.

"What has happened is unconscionable," Judge Swope said from the bench, addressing Kramer, according to The Guardian. "It shocks the conscience. And your conduct is not well taken by this court."

The judge slammed Kramer's lawyers, expressing amazement that not only had Kramer been improperly given access to the files due to an apparently misconfigured Dropbox app, but that he handed over the files to British authorities seemingly without his lawyers' knowledge or approval.

"When I issue a valid court order governing the conduct of parties in this case or any such court order, I expect these orders to be followed. I do not expect a compromise of the integrity of this judicial system, which has been done," Judge Swope said. "The ends do not justify the means, whatever you're trying to accomplish."

David Godkin, another one of Six4Three's lawyers, said that he and the other company lawyers would be withdrawing from the case.

Godkin's redaction failures in a February 2017 court document also recently revealed that Facebook had once considered charging access to its Graph API—a fact that Facebook had wished to keep secret.

"This whole situation has created serious issues for us under the rules of professional responsibility," he said.

Original Article


Ars Technica