After appearing in the US Congress earlier this year to answer questions about the Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has now agreed to appear before the European parliament at a closed-door meeting where he is expected to face tough questions about the company’s data-sharing and privacy policies ahead of the GDPR implementation.
The announcement was made Wednesday by the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. Although no date has been finalized just yet, he said it’s quite possible that the meeting will take place next week. “Our citizens deserve a full and detailed explanation. I welcome Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to appear in person before the representatives of 500 million Europeans”, he said.
The development comes just days before the stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy safeguards are slated to go into effect in the region. The new regulations are meant to replace the aging 1995 Data Protection Directive, and looks to address privacy concerns of EU citizens by imposing stringent regulations on the export of personal data outside the EU.
Zuckerberg is expected to meet the French president, Emmanuel Macron, next Wednesday, but it isn’t immediately clear if he’ll also take the opportunity to drop over at Brussels to meet with Members of the European Parliament. Macron, meanwhile, will also meet a number of other top Silicon Valley leaders next week, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and IBM CEO Virginia ‘Ginni’ Rometty, among others.
It is worth noting that Zuckerberg had faced scathing criticism in the UK after rejecting calls to appear before the British parliament to answer questions about the company’s role in the scandal.
Meanwhile, the ‘closed-door’ nature of the meeting is already fueling resentment among at least some sections of the European polity. Former Belgian politician and current member of the European parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has announced that he won’t be party to the proceedings if they are held behind closed-doors. “It must be a public hearing”, he twitted just over an hour after the announcement.
I will not attend the meeting with Mr Zuckerberg if it’s held behind closed doors. It must be a public hearing – why not a Facebook Live? I strongly regret that the @EPPGroup has colluded with extreme right to keep everything behind closed doors. https://t.co/uYqEDlRtyo
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) May 16, 2018