Mark Zuckerberg has responded to privacy pressures by asking regulators and governments to do more to help control content that gets published online.
Writing in the Washington Post, the Facebook boss acknowledged the “major” role that tech plays in our everyday lives, as well as the “immense responsibilities” that lie on the shoulders of companies such as Facebook.
“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” Zuckerberg said, before appealing to national leaders to help out by implementing new laws regarding “harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”
“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree,” he continued.
His call for stricter regulation have come under fire from officials in Europe, who feel Zuckerberg’s words are more about protecting Facebook’s business model than data subjects’ rights.
Speaking to CNBC, Jennifer Cobbe, coordinator of the Trust & Technology Initiative at Cambridge University, said:
“By trying to focus attention on GDPR, Zuckerberg is presumably trying to protect Facebook by getting out ahead of other regulation and trying to avoid getting into conversations about competition law and breaking up these monopolizing tech giants.”
Other experts have questioned whether the Facebook chief’s message is little more than an acknowledgement of the fact that the social network has to comply with new data privacy laws.
Zuckerberg’s tone has fallen in line with that of Apple boss, Tim Cook, who was outspoken at a data conference in Brussels last October about the need for a federal privacy regulation.
Facebook’s positioning has also been interpreted by some as an attempt to allay negative public opinion of a company that has spent an uncomfortable year in the data protection spotlight for a number of high-profile security bungles.
The Irish Data Protection Commission currently has ten investigations open into Facebook for the way it handles user data, which could eventually lead to astronomical financial penalties and, more seriously, long-term reputational damage.
Damian Collins, who chairs the UK’s digital, culture, media and sport committee, recently concluded an 18-month investigation into the popular social network, has encouraged its boss to speak in front of a grand committee of global officials next month.
Technology policy research at UCL, Michael Veale, has said that Facebook may have to re-think its business model, which is built upon harvesting user data, if Zuckerberg wants his words about security to be taken seriously.
“If you choose to track people in so much detail, you need to design your system to provide them with their rights over that very detailed, invasive data,” he said.