Audit Facebook and overhaul competition law, say MEPs responding to breach scandals
After holding a series of hearings in the wake of the
Top level EU competition law has not touched on the social media axis of big tech yet, with the Commission concentrating recent attention on mobile chips (
But last week Europe’s data protection supervisor,
Local EU antitrust regulators, including in Germany and France, have also been investigating the Google, Facebook adtech duopoly on several fronts in recent years.
The Libe committee’s call is the latest political call to spin up and scale up antitrust effort and attention around social media.
The committee also says it wants to see much greater accountability and transparency on “algorithmic-processed data by any actor, be it private or public” — signalling a belief that
Libe committee chair and rapporteur, MEP Claude Moraes, has
But every big tech data breach and security scandal lends weight to the argument that stronger privacy rules are indeed required.
In yesterday’s resolution, the Libe committee also called for an audit of the advertising industry on social media — echoing a call made by the UK’s data protection watchdog, the ICO, this summer for an ‘
The ICO made that call right after announcing it planned to issue Facebook with the
While the Cambridge Analytica scandal — in which the personal information of as many as
In light of both breaches, the Libe committee has now called for EU bodies to be allowed to fully audit Facebook — to independently assess its data protection and security practices.
Buttarelli also told us last week that it’s his belief none of the tech giants are directing adequate resource at keeping user data safe.
And with Facebook having already revealed a second breach that’s potentially even larger than Cambridge Analytica fresh focus and political attention is falling on the substance of its security practices, not just its claims.
While the Libe committee’s MEPs say they have taken note of steps Facebook made in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal to try to improve user privacy, they point out it has still not yet carried out the promised full internal audit.
Facebook has never said how long this historical app audit will take. Though it has given some progress reports, such as detailing
The Libe committee is now urging Facebook to allow the
It has also recommended that Facebook makes “substantial modifications to its platform” to comply with EU data protection law.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment on the recommendations — including specifically asking the company whether it’s open to an external audit of its platform.
At the time of writing Facebook had not responded to our question but we’ll update this report with any response.
Commenting in a statement, Libe chair Moraes said: “This resolution makes clear that we expect measures to be taken to protect citizens’ right to private life, data protection and freedom of expression. Improvements have been made since the scandal, but, as the Facebook data breach of 50 million accounts showed just last month, these do not go far enough.”
The committee has also made a series of proposals for reducing the risk of social media being used as an attack vector for election interference — including:
- applying conventional “off-line” electoral safeguards, such as rules on transparency and limits to spending, respect for silence periods and equal treatment of candidates;
- making it easy to recognize online political paid advertisements and the organisation behind them;
- banning profiling for electoral purposes, including use of online behaviour that may reveal political preferences;
- social media platforms should label content shared by bots and speed up the process of removing fake accounts;
- compulsory post-campaign audits to ensure personal data are deleted;
- investigations by member states with the support of Eurojust if necessary, into alleged misuse of the online political space by foreign forces.
A couple of weeks ago, the Commission outted a voluntary industry Code of Practice aimed at
However the code is not only voluntary but does not bind signatories to any specific policy steps or processes so it looks like its effectiveness will be as difficult to quantify as its accountability will lack bite.
A UK parliamentary committee which has also been probing political disinformation this year also put out a
Meanwhile Facebook itself has been working on
But few politicians appear ready to trust that the steps Facebook is taking will be enough to avoid a repeat of, for example, the
The Libe committee has also urged all EU institutions, agencies and bodies to verify that their social media pages, and any analytical and marketing tools they use, “should not by any means put at risk the personal data of citizens”.
And it goes as far as suggesting that EU bodies could even “consider closing their Facebook accounts” — as a measure to protect the personal data of every individual contacting them.
The committee’s full resolution was passed by 41 votes to 10 and 1 abstention. And will be put to a vote by the full EU Parliament during the next plenary session later this month.
In it, the Libe also renews its
The data transfer arrangement, which is used by thousands of businesses to authorize transfers of EU users’ personal data across the Atlantic, is under growing pressure ahead of an annual review this month, as the Trump administration has failed entirely to respond as EU lawmakers had hoped their US counterparts would at the time of the agreement being inked in the Obama era, back in 2016.
The EU parliament also
During the Privacy Shield review process this month the Commission will be pressuring US counterparts to try to gain concessions that it can sell back home as ‘compliance’.
Even as more oversight coming down the pipe to rule social media platforms look increasingly certain.