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Zuckerberg's privacy push could become 'an excuse for Facebook to dodge responsibility,' UK lawmaker says

Key Points
  • British MP Damian Collins, an outspoken Facebook critic, said it would be understandable if people do not trust Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's "sudden change of heart" in advocating for more privacy on the company's platforms.
  • Zuckerberg published a 3,000-word post on Wednesday outlining a more "privacy-focused" future for the company.
  • Facebook is facing intense scrutiny from some European governments.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc. attends the Viva Tech start-up and technology gathering at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France.
Christophe Morin/IP3 | Getty Images News | Getty Images

A British lawmaker fired back at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Friday, saying the social media company's statements on privacy must be consistent with its practices behind closed doors.

In a statement to CNBC, British politician Damian Collins, an outspoken Facebook critic, said it would be understandable if people do not trust Zuckerberg's "sudden change of heart" in advocating for more privacy on the company's platforms.

Zuckerberg published a 3,000-word post on Wednesday outlining a more "privacy-focused" future for the social media giant that included measures like encrypted messages.

"Rather than a manifesto for privacy, his statement could easily become an excuse for Facebook to dodge responsibility for acting against harmful content and the accounts that promote it," Collins said.

Collins, from the ruling Conservative Party, is chair of the U.K. Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which recently completed an 18-month investigation into Facebook and other social media companies for their role in spreading "fake news" and disinformation. In a report published in February, the committee accused Facebook of "intentionally and knowingly" violating U.K. data privacy and anti-competition laws.

"As we said in our report on Disinformation and 'Fake News,' Facebook's business model to date is based on a blatant disregard for people's personal data and privacy and ruthlessly crushing other competitor apps," Collins said in the statement Friday.

Facebook said at the time it had made a "significant contribution" to the investigation, with a spokesperson adding the company still had more to do on this issue but was not the same firm it was a year ago.

It's facing intense scrutiny from the U.K. government for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal last year, which exposed millions of users' personal data. Meanwhile a separate U.K. government report published in February said online platforms like Google and Facebook should be investigated to "ensure fair competition" in the online advertising industry.

Other European countries are also taking steps to curb Facebook's influence. This week, France unveiled a 3 percent digital tax on big internet companies, while Germany's antitrust watchdog said it would impose restrictions on how Facebook gathers user data.

The German watchdog specifically said Facebook could not combine data from its separate apps like Instagram and WhatsApp without users' consent. Zuckerberg detailed Facebook's plans to integrate the messaging functions of its separate platforms in his post Wednesday, a move experts say could further complicate antitrust questions.

"The technical combination of the different platforms, whatever it means for privacy, I think it raises antitrust issues that are pretty likely to be pursued," Thomas Vinje, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance who specializes in antitrust, told CNBC on Thursday.

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