'Thank you, Mr Zuckerberg' Europeans are feeling smug one month before the EU's landmark data protection regulation comes into effect.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sweated through hours of testimony in the US Senate last night, appearing at times awkward, clammy, and unable to answer a number of questions about the social media giant’s use of people’s personal data. The dialed-up pressure on Facebook is a gift for the European Commission. Since news broke last month that UK firm Cambridge Analytica misused data from millions of the platform’s users, the Commission has received a rare heaping of praise for its strict new privacy law, known as the GDPR.
Yesterday, Zuckerberg himself commended the EU.
“I think that they get things right,” the 33-year-old billionaire said in response to a senator’s question about the GDPR.
That’s got to feel good for EU legislators who pushed the regulation through. It has gone down in Brussels history as the most lobbied piece of European legislation ever. MEPs tacked on a record-high 3,999 amendments to the bill before it was passed in 2016.
Vera Jourova, the EU Justice Commissioner in charge of the GDPR, told reporters today that she was grateful for Zuckerberg’s accolades.
“Believe me, I was really desperate about thinking how to make the best possible campaign for GDPR. So now this is welcome. So thank you, Mr Zuckerberg,” she said.Jourova said she had other questions in mind to ask Zuckerberg that didn’t come up in yesterday’s hearing---and still wants to hear “European kind of questions”. But so far, Zuckerberg has given no response to an invitation to speak about the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the European Parliament.
“There should be a chance given to the European legislators,” Jourova said. The EU justice chief also said she still has a list of questions she will ask Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a phone call tomorrow. Zuckerberg is in the hot seat this week, and another long grilling session in Congress has just kicked off. But regulators’ pressure on Facebook will spill over to affect other technology companies. The powerful umbrella group of national data protection authorities from EU countries announced today that it is starting up a new working group to investigate data harvesting from social media platforms.
“A multi-billion dollar social media platform saying it is sorry simply is not enough,” Andrea Jelinek, the chair of the so-called article 29 working party said.
So Facebook has opened Pandora’s Box. “What we are seeing today is most likely only one instance of the much wider spread practice of harvesting personal data from social media for economic or political reasons,” Jelinek said.
Utrecht / Haaksbergen, 11 april 2018