UK: Gov releases Facebook emails about data privacy that could impact EU scrutiny

Facebook emails showing the company threatened to cut off user data access to potential rivals could lead to harsher regulatory scrutiny by the European Union, reported Bloomberg.

Their publication preceded a vote by EU lawmakers expected December 6 on draft rules for how online platforms should treat partners, and Germany’s conclusion of an antitrust probe, due in the new year, which may call on Facebook to its change privacy terms. EU privacy regulators, newly armed with the power to fine for data breaches, may be hungry for a scalp as well.

“Facebook is now on notice that we cannot continue to undermine the trust citizens place, not only in our online platforms, but our democracy itself,” said Claude Moraes, a British member of the European Parliament who quizzed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a June hearing. “A big stick is available to the EU in the form of competition and taxation powers.”

A trove of internal correspondence, published online December 5 by UK legislators, provides a look into the ways Facebook executives, including Zuckerberg, treated information posted by users like a commodity that could be harnessed in service of business goals. Apps were invited to use Facebook’s network to grow, as long as that increased usage of Facebook. Certain competitors, in a list reviewed by Zuckerberg himself, were not allowed to use Facebook’s tools and data without his personal sign-off.

According to Bloomberg, the message may increase scrutiny around whether Facebook is a monopoly—one of the social network’s biggest current political risks. Damien Geradin, a Brussels-based lawyer at Euclid Law, said the refusal of access to Vine data could be seen as a potential refusal to deal with rivals. He said Facebook would need to be shown as essential to users, and it’s “not clear it is.”

Full Content: Bloomberg

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