European lawmakers criticize Zuckerberg for his lack of answers

  • Zuckerberg's appearance in the European Parliament consisted of around an hour of questions and less than 10 minutes of answers.
  • Ska Keller, co-head of the Greens-European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, told CNBC that Zuckerberg "gave no answers whatsoever."
  • Politicians are seeking answers from Facebook after it was revealed that the data of tens of millions may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's meeting with European lawmakers in Brussels on Tuesday has been criticized by political representatives for being too short and providing "no answers."

Zuckerberg's appearance in the European Parliament was facilitated by Antonio Tajani, the parliament's president, and consisted of around an hour of questions and less than 10 minutes of answers.

"I was really not satisfied with the hearing yesterday because Zuckerberg gave no answers whatsoever," Ska Keller, co-head of the Greens-European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, told CNBC in a phone interview Tuesday.

"That was facilitated by the format, that there was no possibility to ask follow-up questions so that was definitely a very big problem created by the parliament's president. But still, Zuckerberg could at least have answered some questions more precisely. But he really didn't and was just repeating what he said in his opening statement, so really nothing new."

CNBC understands that the format of the meeting was requested by Tajani.

"The meeting format was decided by the Conference of Presidents," Tajani said in an emailed statement to CNBC. "It also asked to have a meeting with Zuckerberg and a hearing with a senior Facebook executive and other digital platform managers in the civil liberties committee."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the European Parliament on May 22, 2018.
John Thys | AFP | Getty Images
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives at the European Parliament on May 22, 2018.

Politicians in the U.S. and Europe are seeking answers from Facebook after it was revealed that the data of tens of millions may have been improperly shared with political data firm Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica briefly worked for President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. Concerns have been raised over whether targeted advertising techniques and the use of Facebook data may have played a role in swaying elections.

Facebook has admitted that 87 million users' data may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica, and that 2.7 million of those users were Europeans.

Zuckerberg was questioned by U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month. At times, he was unable to answer questions from politicians, saying instead that his team would follow-up with them afterwards.

Zuckerberg echoed that message to lawmakers who pressed him for answers at the end of Tuesday's session.

Jan Albrecht, member of the Greens-European Free Alliance group, insisted that the CEO address whether Facebook would commit to stopping data sharing between Facebook and messaging service Whatsapp, which the social network acquired four years ago. Zuckerberg did not answer Albrecht, but subsequently agreed to follow up on unanswered queries in writing.

"The format of the meeting was a farce, not allowing for any back and forth between Zuckerberg and the members of parliament," Udo Bullmann, chair of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said in a statement following the hearing. "What this meeting made clear is that 75 minutes in a small and exclusive circle is not enough to shed light on the biggest data scandal in recent history."

Bullmann called for another meeting between Zuckerberg and European parliamentarians for a more in-depth analysis of Facebook's handling of data and the sharing of data with Cambridge Analytica.

'It may be time to break up this monopoly'

Guy Verhofsadt, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament, said the format of the meeting and Zuckerberg's responses to lawmakers' questions were "totally inadequate."

He said in a statement after the meeting that it "may be time to break up this monopoly to protect the privacy of our citizens," and alluded to the breakup of monopolies like Standard Oil and the Bell System.

"Fundamental questions regarding the abuse of EU citizen's data remain unanswered and compensation for those who have had their data misused must be forthcoming."

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with Zuckerberg in Paris on Wednesday, alongside IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Zuckerberg will also be speaking at the Viva Technology conference in the French capital on Friday.