C'mon, Zuck... don't make us feel second class. Come talk to us in Europe – EU politicos

Don't say you'll send somebody, MEPs plead

Mark Zuckerberg has been warned not to treat European Facebook users as "second class" as pressure mounts on the CEO to face the music from politicos on the other side of the Pond.

As execs from the social media business are lining up meeting after meeting with EU politicians, one name was notably absent from the attendee list: the man at the top.

Zuckerberg, who gave evidence to two Senate committees yesterday and is due in the House of Representatives later today, last month declined an invite from the UK parliament.

Instead, he put forward CTO Mike Schroepfer, or Chris Cox, chief product officer.

Digital secretary Matt Hancock hasn't fared much better: although he is meeting some Facebook bods today – his department declined to give a list ahead of time. We can safely assume it's not Zuck, since he is due in Washington at 3pm BST.

EU justice commissioner Věra Jourová – who is on the top table for US-EU discussions on transatlantic data transfer deal Privacy Shield – is due to have a phone call with COO Sheryl Sandberg, not Zuck, tomorrow evening.

Of course, Jourová's conversations with Facebook are unlikely to end there – European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said that a letter from Facebook detailing the extent to which European users were affected and what steps the biz has taken will require further talks.

"We will study the letter in more detail, but it is already clear that this will need further follow-up discussions with Facebook on the implemented changes, also in the context of the upcoming new European data protection rules and the broader questions on the democratic process," he said in a emailed statement to The Register.

The issue is also set for debate at today's plenary meeting of the EU's data protection agencies, which will be hoping to seize the opportunity to increase big tech's accountability over privacy.

However, despite topping political agendas across the EU, the groups have yet to get Zuckerberg to give evidence directly to them.

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It's true the Cambridge Analytica data harvest has affected far fewer people in the EU than the States – by Facebook's estimate, about 2.7 million of the total 87m people affected are in the EU.

But the number isn't insignificant, especially when combined with some concerns about the impact Facebook data might have had on European elections and the Brexit referendum.

And throughout Zuckerberg has insisted the fault is his: "It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here," reads his written testimony to Congress.

Which means his decision not to travel to the EU to represent his company, and answer for its mistakes, has ruffled feathers in the bloc.

In an open letter, Green MEPs Jan Phillip Albrecht (godfather of GDPR) and Sven Giegold called for Zuckerberg to give evidence in front of the European Parliament, when two of its committee hold a hearing into the scandal.

They write:

For this upcoming hearing, we would like to insist to invite Mark Zuckerberg personally... Mr Zuckerberg rightly states in his written testimony for the US Congress that he is the most responsible person to give these answers. European Facebook users and citizens should not be treated as second class.

While US citizens will receive some answers on questions concerning threats to their democracy, Mr Zuckerberg does not elaborate on questions as to the role the Facebook scandal could have played in the Brexit referendum results, election campaigns in the Czech Republic and possibly in more EU member states.

Their letter states that the issue goes "beyond the issue of personal data protection" but "to the heart of democracy".

This view is echoed by the European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, who told The Register that effective data protection "is a big part of the solution, but not enough in itself".

In an emailed statement, he emphasised that privacy is about more than social media platforms making it easier for users to control their settings.

"Privacy is not just about changing settings so that only 'friends' can see certain things about you," he said.

"It is about what companies do with your data. Until now, an ordinary person is unable to get from big companies clear information about what data they hold about them. That is completely unacceptable and has to change."

Buttarelli argued that there was a need to "de-concentrate the internet", with antitrust and merger controls being "key to giving people more control over their online lives". ®




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