Under-fire Facebook Inc founder Mark Zuckerberg is set to meet with one of the European Union’s leading regulators as the furor over a data privacy scandal shows no signs of abating. Zuckerberg – who faces a clamor to answer for how masses of Facebook users’ private information fell into the hands of British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica – is scheduled to see European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip during a two-day trip to San Francisco starting Tuesday, the EU authority said in a statement.
While the two men have met informally before – with Ansip tweeting a picture from Barcelona in February 2016 – it’s the first time Ansip, whose brief covers the so-called digital single market, or any EU commissioner has reported a meeting with Zuckerberg in their online calendars. Zuckerberg has been called to appear in the European Parliament to explain how Facebook data of as many as 2.7 million Europeans could have been passed to Cambridge Analytica. Separately, the EU commission is planning to unveil new legislation next week to set rules for how they deal with business users, part of a wave of new rules across Europe that seek to curb big internet firms, most of them American.
Facebook has usually relied on Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the author of bestselling book “Lean In,” to talk to EU officials. She met with Ansip, EU privacy chief Vera Jourova and EU digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel in Brussels in January, following Silicon Valley meetings with Jourova in September and Dimitris Avramopoulos, who handles EU security, in March. Sandberg also met Ansip in Brussels in June 2015 and EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans in Davos in January 2015. The Brussels-based commission said Ansip would also meet with Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai, Twitter General Counsel Sean Edgett and Netflix General Counsel David Hyman in individual meetings to talk about data protection, online privacy, illegal content, disinformation campaigns, digital copyright and artificial intelligence.
Facebook said it had “nothing to share on the details of the meeting” and it often hosts politicians at its head office to discuss a range of subjects. Zuckerberg last week spent about 10 hours in front of Congress over the course of two days, answering questions about how Facebook handles content and users’ privacy, resulting in calls for some type of government regulation.