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Mark Zuckerberg to Meet European Parliament Members Over Facebook’s Data Use

May 16, 2018

Still, one European lawmaker who was invited to the meeting with Mr. Zuckerberg said he would not attend if it was not made public. “It must be a public hearing — why not a Facebook Live?” said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of a liberal group in the European Parliament.

The prospect of Mr. Zuckerberg publicly testifying before the European Parliament would have raised the profile of an institution whose 751 members rarely make international headlines. The body does not directly regulate Facebook or other technology companies.

Yet Europe has won a reputation in recent years as the technology industry’s toughest watchdog. Officials in the region have investigated Facebook for the improper handling of customer data, fined Amazon and other companies over their tax practices and penalized firms like Google for antitrust violations.

The timing of Mr. Zuckerberg’s announcement, and of his visit to Brussels, coincides with Europe’s introduction next week of the world’s most aggressive rules for protecting data privacy. Under the new rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, which will be enacted on May 25, regulators in the bloc’s 28 member states will get the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue for violations — a sum equivalent to $1.6 billion in Facebook’s case.

On Wednesday, European leaders plan to discuss data protection, the scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and the impact the issue has had on elections in the region, according to Vera Jourova, the region’s justice commissioner.

“It shows Zuckerberg really is worried about the effects of regulation and the potential for more,” said Michael Carrier, a law professor at Rutgers University who focuses on antitrust issues and intellectual property law. Mr. Carrier added that the trip demonstrated the leading role Europe plays in regulating the tech sector.

Most concerning for Mr. Zuckerberg and others in Silicon Valley, Mr. Carrier said, was a broader skepticism of the industry. “Big tech is under the public microscope from the left and the right,” he said.