Zuckerberg faces grilling by EU Parliament

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised to European Union lawmakers for a massive data leak.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg preparing to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month. At yesterday's meeting with leaders of the European Parliament, he was to answer questions on how the data of Facebook users fell into the ha
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg preparing to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month. At yesterday's meeting with leaders of the European Parliament, he was to answer questions on how the data of Facebook users fell into the hands of a political consultancy.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRUSSELS • Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced questioning yesterday by leaders of the European Parliament about how the data of millions of Facebook users ended up in the hands of a political consultancy.

The meeting comes three days before tough new European Union (EU) rules on data protection take effect. Companies will be subject to fines of up to 4 per cent of global turnover for breaching the rules.

Facebook has come under scrutiny from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked on US President Donald Trump's campaign, improperly acquired the data of 87 million users, including up to 2.7 million in the EU.

Mr Zuckerberg has apologised for the leak in testimony to the United States Congress last month, but questions remain over how the firm's data policies let the leak happen.

He would stress Facebook's commitment to Europe, according to remarks released in advance by his company.

Mr Zuckerberg would remind EU lawmakers about an artificial intelligence research lab in Paris, a large engineering team in London, and data centres in Sweden, Ireland and Denmark set to open in 2020.

He would also highlight how refugees are using the site to communicate with families back in their home countries, and how Europeans used the company's "safety check" feature to keep tabs on loved ones after terror attacks in Paris, London and Brussels.

"We're committed to Europe," Mr Zuckerberg was expected to say. "Many of the values Europeans care most deeply about are values we share: from the importance of human rights and the need for community to a love of technology, with all the potential it brings."

He would also apologise for failing "to take a broad enough view" of the company's responsibilities, "whether it's fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers misusing people's information".

Mr Zuckerberg would meet the president of the European Parliament, Mr Antonio Tajani, the leaders of the Parliament's political groups and the chair of the civil liberties committee Claude Moraes.

The meeting was to be livestreamed after an outcry over plans to hold it in private.

The EU Parliament will separately organise a hearing with Facebook representatives to examine data protection that will also look at the potential impact on the election process.

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has suspended 200 apps from its platforms as it investigates third-party apps that have access to large quantities of user data.

Cambridge Analytica and its British parent, SCL Elections, have declared bankruptcy and closed down.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Zuckerberg faces grilling by EU Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe