Friday

20th May 2022

Facebook cries foul on EU request for internal documents

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a 2018 visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg (Photo: European Parliament)

Facebook, a US tech giant known for abusing its users' private information, has said the European Commission was now attempting to do the same to Facebook employees' data.

The firm filed its complaints at the EU court in Luxembourg, after the commission asked to see internal documents containing any of 2,500 search phrases as part of an anti-trust enquiry.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Brussels-based news agency MLex first revealed Facebook's legal counter-strike in a story on Monday (27 July), citing anonymous sources.

Tim Lamb, a senior Facebook lawyer, later confirmed the report.

"The exceptionally broad nature of the commission's requests means we would be required to turn over predominantly irrelevant documents that have nothing to do with the commission's investigations," he said in a statement.

And those documents could include "highly sensitive personal information such as employees' medical information, personal financial documents, and private information about family members of employees," Lamb added.

"We think such requests should be reviewed by the EU courts," he said.

The EU search phrases included "big question ... shut down ... not good for us ... applause ... [and] for free", according to Facebook spokespersons, speaking to the UK's Reuters and BBC news agencies.

That meant the EU commission would see documents about Facebook staff's health details, performance evaluations, and job applications, as well as the firm's internal security arrangements, they said.

The firm had offered to let EU officials look at the texts in a secure room where they could not make copies of them, but the commission refused the offer, Facebook told the BBC.

And the US giant had already shared 1.7m pages of internal documents with EU investigators in a sign of good will, it noted.

The EU commission is currently investigating Facebook in two probes into allegedly anti-competitive behaviour that abused users' private details as well as its dominant online presence.

US congressmen were also due to cross-examine Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday in a separate investigation into alleged abuse of the firm's online "dominance", but the hearing was postponed due to a clash with a memorial service for a US civil rights leader.

Zuckerberg founded the California-based firm in 2004 initially as a platform for US students to talk to each other.

It now has more than 2.5bn users worldwide and income of $71bn (€60bn) a year, according to its 2019 financial results.

It was first outed in 2018 by US investigators for illegally sharing 87 million people's data for election-meddling purposes in the 2016 US vote and fined $5bn for the crime.

It agreed to pay a $650mn settlement earlier this month for allegedly illicit use of facial-recognition software in a US lawsuit.

It has also faced controversy for letting US president Donald Trump threaten Black Lives Matter protestors with violence and for publishing Nazi symbols on its pages.

And it has been targeted, alongside other US tech giants, by EU regulators for mass-scale tax avoidance in European countries in an ongoing spat which saw America threaten to impose counter-sanctions on EU firms.

EU states given right to police Facebook worldwide

National courts in EU states can order Facebook to delete content "worldwide", Europe's top tribunal has ruled, in what the US social media giant called an attack on free speech.

EU defends US data pact, as Facebook court case opens

An Austrian privacy campaigner vs Facebook over the future of data transfers to the US case opened at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday. The European Commission, meanwhile, says the Privacy Shield pact is working fine.

'Big Five' tech giants spent €19m lobbying EU in 2020

The increased regulatory scrutiny of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft has triggered a rise in lobbying activities by these companies in Brussels, and, accordingly, an exponential grow of their budget for these activities.

Opinion

Why am I not seeing this ad?

The micro-targeting of narrow, homogenous groups of people with very specific messages that exploit their vulnerabilities, makes it easier than ever to distort political debate, pushing people deeper into their echo chambers and stimulating single-issue voting.

Stakeholder

The CPDP conference wants multidisciplinary digital future

During the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference, many high-level discussions will touch upon the dynamics of decision-making in the design of new technologies, including the importance of inclusion, diversity, and ethics perspectives within these processes.

EU Commission won't probe 'Pegasus' spyware abuse

The European Commission says people should file their complaints with national authorities in countries whose governments are suspected of using an Israeli-made Pegasus spyware against them.

News in Brief

  1. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts
  2. Macron seeks 'quick' EU answer on Moldova application
  3. German chancellor to tour Western Balkans
  4. UN: more than 8,000 civilians killed or injured in Ukraine
  5. EU agrees new minimum gas storage target
  6. EU justice agency to have more roles on war crimes
  7. More than 50,000 Ukrainians refused entry into EU in 2021
  8. Germany open to EU treaty change 'if required'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  2. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  3. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  4. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  5. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms
  6. EU states warn of looming food-price crisis
  7. Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow
  8. Nordic Bridges unveil latest highlights of Spring programme

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us