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EU Parliament to grill Facebook’s Zuckerberg over data mining, election meddling

Mark Zuckerberg is in Brussels on the latest stop of his apology tour, delivering yet another mea culpa for and policy blunders that led to one of the largest data leaks in history and an unprecedented attack on democratic elections across the West. Yes, it’s as serious as all that. The 34-year-old multibillionaire is set to testify before the European Union’s Parliament on Tuesday.

Lawmakers will discuss everything from Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, which some argue handed a victory to Donald Trump, to the 87 million user profiles that were mistakenly shared with a now-defunct UK-based political consultancy called Cambridge Analytica. The twin scandals exploded onto front pages in March after The New York Times and Guardian’s Observer publications exposed how Cambridge Analytica inappropriately gathered and used Facebook profile information and also influenced the “Leave” campaign during Britain’s Brexit referendum.

Mark Zuckerberg during his second day of testimony on Capitol Hill last month.

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Zuckerberg is now dealing with questions about whether you can trust him and the social platform he created 14 years ago. After being questioned for more than 10 hours over two days by the US Congress in April, Facebook’s chief continues to try to reassure lawmakers, investors, advertisers and his 2.2 billion users that his company can be trusted with their data.

“My top priority has always been our social mission of connecting people, building community and bringing the world closer together,” Zuckerberg said when he was testifying to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “Advertisers and developers will never take priority over that as long as I’m running Facebook.” Zuckerberg escaped his hearings with both the US Senate and House of Representatives relatively unscathed — that is, Facebook’s shares actually rose during the hearings and then, two weeks later, the company reported earnings that topped Wall Street’s expectations. But he still has a lot of convincing to do.

So far, Zuckerberg has added new privacy controls that let people clear their web and app histories from Facebook, and he’s promised that the 10,000 curators the company is hiring this year will clean up the fake news, hate speech and other objectionable content found on the social network. When he introduced a new dating feature for Facebook at the company’s annual F8 developer conference last month, he was quick to add that it had designed with “privacy and safety in mind from the beginning.” Still, that hasn’t been enough.

Some advertisers, including Firefox web browser maker Mozilla and speaker maker Sonos, stopped advertising on Facebook as the scandal was unfolding. And while users started a campaign called #DeleteFacebook, the company said it actually saw user growth during the three months ended March 31. And through it all, it turns out Facebook still pulled in money hand over fist — counting nearly £5 billion in profits during that same time, a 63 percent increase over the previous year — by using the details its users share to direct more relevant ads to them.

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Even so, prominent tech executives, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook, have criticized team Zuck.

Musk, who deleted Tesla and SpaceX pages from Facebook, said the social network gave him “the willies.” Cook said Facebook failed to regulate itself and vowed Apple wouldn’t make money off its user’s data. When Zuckerberg faces lawmakers in Europe, he’s going to be addressing regulators who take a much stronger stance on privacy than here in the US. “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm,” Zuckerberg said during his comments to Congress last month. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.

We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake.”

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook’s data mining scandal.

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