MEPs criticise Zuckerberg meeting on data breach scandal

MEPs criticise Zuckerberg meeting on data breach scandal
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg © Anthony Quintano

MEPs have criticised a European Parliament meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which sought to discuss the recent Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

Subject to particular criticism was the format of the meeting, in which MEPs offered lists of questions on various topics, from the recent Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, to whether Facebook is a monopoly, which Zuckerberg was then allowed to answer once all questions had been posed.

Some MEPs, because it allowed Zuckerberg to decide for himself which elements of the questions to answer. UK MEP Syed Kamall said on Twitter that the format of the meeting offered “a get out of jail free card and gave Mr Zuckerberg too much room to avoid the difficult questions”.

Further, some MEPs expressed frustration that the format meant that those posing questions took up too much of the allotted meeting time, allowing Zuckerberg just 20 minutes of the meeting’s one and a half hours to provide answers.

What was discussed at the meeting?

The primary topic of the meeting was the recent data breach scandal, in which it emerged that data-harvesting firm Cambridge Analytica had used masses of Facebook user data to target political advertising during the US presidential election campaign in 2016.

Zuckerberg insisted that the data had been collected illegally, and that Facebook was not responsible for the breach. However, he apologised for what he called a misuse of user data, saying: “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.”

German MEP Manfred Weber, meanwhile, asked Zuckerberg whether he feels that Facebook is a monopoly; Weber’s opinion, which was echoed by Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, is that it may fulfil the criteria to be considered such. He warned that it was time to discuss breaking up what he called “Facebook’s monopoly”, because in his view the company already has too much power.

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