Facebook's Zuckerberg to appear at European Parliament -speaker

Antonio Tajani

Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks the F8 conference on May 1, 2018, in San Jose, California.

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.

More than a million of these victims are believed to be in the United Kingdom, but Mr Zuckerberg has so far refused to appear before British MPs, in a move they describe as absolutely astonishing. "It is a step in the right direction towards restoring confidence".

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".

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 the house's President Antonio Tajani, the leaders of its political groups, and Claude Moraes, the British MEP who chairs the powerful Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE).

Separately, the parliament will organize a series of committee hearings with Facebook and other tech companies.

It also comes as Christopher Wylie, a former worker at Cambridge Analytica, is to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the handling of Facebook users' data by the social media company and his former employer.

Zuckerberg's European Union visit will be his first since a whistleblower alleged that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested information from over 50 million Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Zuckerberg's appearance before European Union politicians comes just ahead of the bloc's new data protection laws, which Facebook has said it will only implement within its jurisdiction - standing in contrast to Apple, which has said it will apply the same privacy standards worldwide.

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

While Zuckerberg testified last month to the U.S. Congress, he had always been noncommittal on his appearance in Europe, sending his chief technical officer to speak to the British parliament and delaying confirmation of any visit to Brussels. Collins warned Zuckerberg last month that if he does not come voluntarily, he could be issued a formal summons, which would force him to appear before the parliament when he next enters the United Kingdom.

- Dylan Byers contributed reporting.

Rebecca Stimson, the head of policy for Facebook UK, told the committee in a letter on Monday that Zuckerberg "has no plans to meet with the committee or travel to the UK at the present time".

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