Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised to the European Union lawmakers on Tuesday, pledging that the company has not done enough to prevent misuse of the social network.
"We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility. That was a mistake and I am sorry for it," Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks.
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Zuckerberg’s testimony to key officials of the European Parliament, which was broadcast live from Brussels, comes at a difficult time for Facebook. In March it was alleged that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used the data of Facebook users to target ads during political campaigns, including the one that brought Donald Trump to the presidency.
The company is also under pressure to comply with tough new EU new laws, called GDPR, on the use and protection of personal data.
The president of the assembly’s influential Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, Claude Moraes told The Associated Press that the fact Zuckerberg’s testimony will be heard by the public “is very significant.”
Moraes pointed out that Zuckerberg’s notes for his testimony to U.S. senators last month, as captured by an AP photograph, said: “Don’t say we already do what GDPR requires.” So he plans to ask Zuckerberg if that is true.
The data protection law enters force on Friday. It will give Facebook’s European users — estimated at around 252 million people — more control over what companies can do with what they post, search and click; regardless of what country those companies operate in. Companies could be fined up to 4 percent of their world-wide annual turnover for violations.
Moraes said the assembly has “the legal and moral authority” to question Zuckerberg, and wants to go deeper than the U.S. Congress, to learn more about the kinds of profiling that Facebook might be doing and whether the Internet giant is violating any competition laws through its use of data obtained in mergers like the buyout of online messaging service Whatsapp.
The evening hearing with leaders of the political groups, Moraes, and a justice and civil rights expert was initially planned to be held behind closed doors. But many in the assembly are demanding an on-air grilling so Zuckerberg can also respond to allegations that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica misused the data of millions of Facebook users.
Zuckerberg had long been noncommittal about appearing in Europe. He sent a senior official to speak to the British parliament and had offered to do the same in Brussels.
(With AP inputs)