Complaints that Facebook Avoided Questions at European Parliament
Facebook CEO grilled by EU lawmakers over privacy, monopoly

Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg left European Union lawmakers fuming over unanswered questions at the end of a hearing that began with a mea culpa for the company’s recent privacy woes.

At a meeting at the EU Parliament, Zuckerberg said what he’s been telling every audience recently: that his company didn’t take a broad enough view of its responsibility for user data, fake news and foreign interference in elections and that he is sorry for that.

But at a session where lawmakers got to ask all their questions in one go at the start, he annoyed them by batting many of them away — including on whether people can opt out of advertising and also on whether the U.S. giant is a monopoly that needs to be broken up.

“Unfortunately the format was a get out of jail free card and gave Mr. Zuckerberg too much room to avoid the difficult questions,” said Syed Kamall, a British center-right lawmaker, who attended the meeting in Brussels.

The revelations that the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users and their friends may have been misused by Cambridge Analytica has been called a game changer in the world of data protection as regulators seek to raise awareness about how to secure information.

“Is it time to break Facebook’s monopoly because there’s already too much power in one company’s hands?” Weber asked. “Can you convince me not to?”

Zuckerberg didn’t rise to the bait, but instead pointed out that the company faces stiff competition.

“We exist in a very competitive space,” he said. “The average person uses about eight different tools for communication — it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day.”

Verhofstadt said Zuckerberg now faces a volley of follow-up written questions from members left feeling short-changed.

“He hasn’t responded to the questions and to do that there will be a list of written questions — in fact all the questions that have been put forward to him today,” he said.