The British government keeps asking Mark Zuckerberg to testify about his company’s abysmal privacy record, and the Facebook CEO keeps turning them down. Zuck likes to send his lackeys instead, but the UK has had about enough of Zuck’s crap. The next time he’s in the UK, the government is going to make Zuckberberg testify.
The news comes from an open letter by British lawmakers to Facebook’s office in the UK dated May 1. The letter has requested that Zuckerberg testify in London on May 24 while he’s scheduled to be in Europe.
The last time that British lawmakers asked Zuckerberg to appear back in March, he declined, despite their helpful suggestion that he could do it by video teleconference. Instead, Facebook sent CTO Mike Schroepfer, who failed to give substantive answers about what the social media company was doing to protect the privacy and the data of its users.
The letter addressed to Rebecca Stimson, head of Public Policy for Facebook in the UK, lays out Britain’s disappointment in Schroepfer’s testimony and what’s to come if Zuck doesn’t appear on 24 May 2018:
Thank you for helping to arrange Mike Schroepfer’s appearance in front of the Committee yesterday. As you may have seen from my press statement, the Committee feels that the evidence lacked many of the important details that we need. We therefore re-state our invitation to Mark Zuckerberg. Following reports that he will be giving evidence to the European Parliament in May, we would like Mr Zuckerberg to come to London during his European trip. We would like the session here to take place by 24 May.
It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK Parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country. We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but if not the Committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.
The rest of the letter makes it pretty clear that the British government is fed up with Facebook. And they’re giving Zuckerberg until May 11 to confirm that he’ll be testifying. If he doesn’t, they will issue a summons for him to do so:
Mr Schroepfer failed to answer fully on nearly 40 separate points. This is especially disappointing to the Committee considering that in his testimony to Congress Mark Zuckerberg also failed to give convincing answers to some questions. Mr Schroepfer agreed that his team would follow up on the questions included below. For clarity, we include a list of the questions below, and attach a transcript of yesterday’s session to this letter. We would like the replies by 11 May so that we can factor the answers into planning for the evidence we hope to take from Mr Zuckerberg a fortnight later.
As I said yesterday, there are over 40 million Facebook users in the UK and they deserve to hear accurate answers from the company he created and whether it is able to keep their users’ data safe. We look forward to receiving your answers by 11 May. We would like confirmation of Mr Zuckerberg’s attendance by the same date.
Facebook has been having a really bad year, given the fact that it played fast and loose with the data of its users. But the biggest political pressures on Facebook have been coming from outside of the US, where politicians have virtually no incentive to pull their punches.
Silicon Valley has historically been a place of pride for American entrepreneurs and politicians alike. But with the world opening its eyes to the tremendous power wielded by just a few huge tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, there are tremendous incentives for foreign governments to treat Facebook like an invasive species.
Even American politicians who were relatively tough on Zuckerberg during his hearings before Congress in April frequently acknowledged that they supported American innovation and the spirit of Silicon Valley. But Facebook has forced everyone who uses the platform to question what it is they’re giving up – and whether the ostensibly positive values of innovation in Silicon Valley are worth the trade-offs for society at large.