Zuckerberg's EU Privacy Hearing Falls Short Of Expectations

Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg spent some twenty minutes answering questions from European Parliament members on late Tuesday afternoon CET after listening to their inquiries for over an hour before addressing any privacy concerns stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other user data debacles related to the company's platform that emerged in recent weeks. The format of the meeting saw EU lawmakers ask back-to-back questions from Mr. Zuckerberg, with not a single one of them being answered directly. While the overall tone of the gathering was much less friendly compared to the congressional hearings Mr. Zuckerberg attended in the United States last month, its overall results were largely the same, with the multi-billionaire vowing Facebook will do better to protect the privacy of its users going forward but without revealing many new details about its efforts to do so, or making concrete pledges.

EU Parliament members criticized Mr. Zuckerberg over avoiding to directly address their questions, with Belgian democrat Guy Verhofstadt maintaining he's looking forward "to this brave new world in which tens of thousands of people are scrutinizing us; determining what is fake news or not." Among other things, the Facebook chief was asked whether he has any arguments against Facebook being a monopoly, with European lawmakers clearly signaling they're already viewing the company as one. Mr. Zuckerberg agreed some sort of privacy regulation is needed, pointing to the incoming General Data Privacy Protection that's entering force on Friday as a promising first step toward ensuring people's privacy on the Internet.

Mr. Zuckerberg also maintained Facebook itself is already investing significant resources into combating misuse of its platform, with Mr. Verhofstadt dismissing his remarks, describing the issue as not something the company can address on its own. The 34-year-old was questioned on Facebook's "shadow profiles" as well, insisting that the firm's policy to collect data from non-users is important to maintain the privacy of its existing ones, i.e. prevent people who aren't Facebook users from accessing the platform and mining data on those who are. He did not directly address the question of whether that "security data" is also used for targeting advertising to non-users. The meeting ran some fifteen minutes longer than planned, with Facebook's chief promising to follow up on individual inquiries but failing to impress the political bloc's legislators in doing so.

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