Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg will tout the company’s investment in Europe and again take responsibility for privacy failures, according to testimony prepared for an appearance Tuesday in front of the region’s parliament.
Zuckerberg, who was asked to address concerns about the Cambridge Analytica data leak, will repeat what he’s been telling every audience recently: That the company didn’t take a broad enough view of its responsibility for user data, fake news and foreign interference in elections. For that, he’s sorry, the chief executive officer says in excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the company.
But Zuckerberg will also use the time to discuss Facebook’s continued investment in Europe. He’ll remind them 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’ll 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,” Zuckerberg plans 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.”
In his appearance, which was initially scheduled to be held in private, Zuckerberg is aiming to highlight the company’s positive impact on the region at a time of heightened regulatory scrutiny. He’ll speak days before Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect, exposing Facebook to hefty fines if the company doesn’t follow the rules.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved an app developer sharing Facebook information on up to 87 million people with a consulting firm with links to Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign, may have affected as many as 2.7 million Europeans. And there are 200 more potentially problematic apps, Facebook said recently.
“It’s also become clear over the last couple of years that we haven’t done enough to prevent the tools we’ve built from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg said in his prepared remarks. “Whether it’s fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers misusing people’s information, we didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”
EU lawmakers said they wanted to look beyond Zuckerberg’s “nice words.”
“What we need are concrete steps from Facebook in order to guarantee the fundamental right to data protection, instead of nice words,” said Eva Joly, a French member of the European Parliament. “If he were to apply EU standards to all Facebook users worldwide, this would be a great victory for Europe and for individuals in general. ”
The CEO spent about 10 hours testifying in front of the U.S. Congress in April. His European Union appearance is scheduled to last a little longer than an hour, starting later on Tuesday. The parliament will separately organize a hearing with Facebook representatives to examine data protection that will also look at the potential impact on the election process.
U.K. lawmakers, whose requests for Zuckerberg to appear before them in London were rebuffed, are sending questions to their EU counterparts for the session.
“The Facebook data breach was executed in the U.K. and the data went to a U.K. company, affecting over 1 million U.K. users,” Damian Collins, chairman of the U.K. House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said in a statement. “If Mark Zuckerberg chooses not to address our questions directly, we are asking colleagues at the European Parliament to help us get answers, particularly on who knew what at the company, and when, about the data breach and the non-transparent use of political adverts which continue to undermine our democracy.”