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Who says privacy is dead? Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to take European parliamentarians’ questions about how his platform impacts the privacy of hundreds of millions of European citizens — but only behind closed doors. Where no one except a handful of carefully chosen MEPs will bear witness to what’s said.
The private meeting will take place on May 22 at 17.45CET in Brussels. After which the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, will hold a press conference to furnish the media with his version of events.
It’s just a shame that journalists are being blocked from being able to report on what actually goes on in the room.
And that members of the public won’t be able to form their own opinions about how Facebook’s founder responds to pressing questions about what Zuckerberg’s platform is doing to their privacy and their fundamental rights.
Because the doors are being closed to journalists and citizens.
The Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament will meet on 22 May at 17.45 with Mark Zuckerberg to discuss the use of personal data of millions of #Facebook EU users. After the meeting @EP_President Tajani will inform media of the discussions. Details will follow.
— Jaume Duch (@jduch) May 17, 2018
Even the intended contents of the meeting is been glossed over in public — with the purpose of the chat being vaguely couched as “to clarify issues related to the use of personal data” in a statement by Tajani (below).
The impact of Facebook’s platform on “electoral processes in Europe” is the only discussion point that’s specifically flagged.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and founder, has accepted our invitation. He will come to the European Parliament. My full statement pic.twitter.com/FdmuDPl8Wb
— Antonio Tajani (@EP_President) May 16, 2018
Given Zuckerberg has thrice denied requests from UK lawmakers to take questions about his platform in a public hearing we can only assume the company made the CEO’s appearance in front of EU parliamentarians conditional on the meeting being closed.
But evidently the company’s sense of accountability doesn’t travel very far. (Despite a set of ‘privacy principles’ that Facebook published with great fanfare at the start of the year — one of which reads: ‘We are accountable’. Albeit Facebook didn’t specify to who or what exactly Facebook feels accountable.)
We’ve reached out to Facebook to ask why Zuckerberg will not take European parliamentarians questions in a public hearing. And indeed whether Mark can find the time to hop on a train to London afterwards to testify before the DCMS committee’s enquiry into online disinformation — and will update this story with any response.
As Vera Jourova, the European commissioner for justice and consumers, put it in a tweet, it’s a pity the Facebook founder does not believe all Europeans deserve to know how their data is handled by his company. Just a select few, holding positions of elected office.
A pity or, well, a shame.
Glad that Mark Zuckerberg accepted invitation from @Europarl_EN and will come to Brussels to answer European questions on privacy. Pity this will not be a public hearing. There are more EU users on FB than there are in the US & Europeans deserve to know how their data is handled.
— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) May 16, 2018
Safe to say, not all MEPs are happy with the arrangement…
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
And according to an EU parliament source, around half the groups wanted an open hearing with the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs — with only a small majority of the Conference of Presidents agreeing to a closed meeting.
But let’s at least be thankful that Zuckerberg has shown us, once again, how very much privacy matters — to him personally…
Yes, the Senators questioning Mark Zuckerberg were generally terrible at it. But Illinois Sen. @DickDurbin got him to admit he wouldn’t want to publicly share his hotel name and location on his DC trip – something FB loves its members to do. https://t.co/dg2voDFM26 via @YouTube
— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) April 11, 2018
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