Zuckerberg to meet European Parliament leaders in private session

After weeks of back-and-forth between the European Parliament and Facebook executives, CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed on Wednesday (16 May) to meet with political leaders in Brussels over the company’s recent data breach scandal.

Despite MEPs’ calls last month for Zuckerberg to testify before a public, joint session of four Parliament committees, the 34-year-old billionaire is now slated to meet privately with a group of the house’s leaders.

Parliament President Antonio Tajani will attend the meeting, along with the leaders of its political groups, Claude Moraes, the British MEP who chairs the powerful Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), and Jan Philipp Albrecht, the German Green MEP who led the Parliament’s negotiations on the EU’s data protection regulation. The strict new legislation takes effect next week (25 May).

In March, The Observer and The New York Times reported that consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had analysed more than 87 million Facebook users’ data for political campaign work without their knowledge. Around 2.7 million of those users are based in the EU.

Zuckerberg has apologised for the scandal and rushed to announce changes to Facebook’s privacy settings.

EURACTIV understands that Zuckerberg will not meet with any other EU officials or legislators while he is in Brussels.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We have accepted the Council of President’s proposal to meet with leaders of the European Parliament and appreciate the opportunity for dialogue, to listen to their views and show the steps we are taking to better protect people’s privacy.”

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Tajani said that the Facebook chief “will be in Brussels as soon as possible, hopefully already next week”.

“Our citizens deserve a full and detailed explanation,” Tajani said.

The Parliament president called the meeting “a step in the right direction towards restoring confidence”.

But the private discussion will be much smaller than the format Tajani originally proposed to the Facebook boss. Last month, Tajani sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding he appear before MEPs from the LIBE Committee, and the Legal Affairs (JURI), Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) and Industry (ITRE) Committees.