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This article was published on June 8, 2018

Facebook! Stop sending us lobbyists! demands European Parliament

Sheryl Sandberg invited to formal hearing

Facebook! Stop sending us lobbyists! demands European Parliament
Jennifer Baker
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Jennifer Baker

Better known as Brusselsgeek, Jennifer is a reporter on EU tech policy and digital rights. Regularly bursting the EU bubble, she was awarded Better known as Brusselsgeek, Jennifer is a reporter on EU tech policy and digital rights. Regularly bursting the EU bubble, she was awarded #1 Tech Influencer 2019 by ZN, was named by Onalytica as one of the world's Top 100 Influencers on Data Security 2016, and was listed by Politico as one of the Top 20 Women Shaping Brussels in 2017. She likes good books and bad films, especially those featuring aliens, swords and time travel – preferably all three.

The European Parliament is sick and tired of Facebook refusing to properly answer its questions. After the fiasco of the Mark Zuckerberg show, a further two hearings are planned for June 25 in Brussels and July 2 in Strasbourg.

However despite a clear request for COO Sheryl Sandberg to join the latter, Zuckerberg consistently proposes to send the social network’s policy lobbyists rather than those running the company day-to-day.

In a letter to Zuckerberg, seen by The Next Web, civil liberties committee chairman Claude Moraes says: “I would like to stress it is essential for Facebook’s credibility to show its commitment that you send staff members that are in charge of the departments concerned in your company and not public policy team members.”

In other words, the European Parliament is quite fed up of lobbyists and wants real answers.

However Zuckerberg seems determined to have his VP of Public Policy, Lord Richard Allan, as the main representative.

The July 2 public meeting in Strasbourg with the competent European Commissioners to discuss policy solutions remedies and the implementation and need for legislation will be high profile. Some might question why Sandberg, representative of a private company is even being asked to sit alongside Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, Justice and Consumers Commissioner, Vera Jourova and Security Commissioner, Julian King to discuss policy solutions and the implementation of legislation.

Clearly Facebook would rather not give straight answers about the (ab)use of users’ data — Zuckerberg’s performance in the so-called Conference of Presidents hearing revealed that all too clearly.

These next hearings will take a different format putting the respondent much more on the spot: The Q&A session will consist of one minute questions directly followed by a two-minute reply. And the plan is for Sandberg to give a 10 minute presentation before  questions about the “current implementation and commitments by Facebook.”

“This meeting would be an opportunity for your company to convey the commitments it has made on implementation of existing legislation and to present the steps that will take in the future,” says Moraes in his letter. But once again it seems Zuckerberg wants to send Lord Allan.

The letter lists the Facebook employees it expects to show up on June 25:

  • Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, for Session one data protection and privacy implications including applicable jurisdiction.
  • Joel Kaplan, Vice President of Global Public Policy for Session two, consumers trust in digital platforms and cyber security
  • Rob Goldman, Vice President for Advertisements for Session 3 the alleged impact and risks for electoral process.

Also invited to speak to MEPs at the hearing are Head of the newly formed European Data Protection Board, Andrea Jelinek, President and founder of, Paul-Oliver Dehaye, Head of ENISA, Udo Helmbrecht, Chair of the UK Electoral Commission, John Holmes, and regular thorn in Facebook’s side, privacy activist, Max Schrems.

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