Zuckerberg tells EU he's 'sorry' for Facebook's privacy missteps

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(Bloomberg) -- “Sorry” no longer seems to be the hardest word for Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg, who offered European Union lawmakers his latest mea culpa for the social network’s role in a privacy scandal that tarnished his company’s reputation.

Just over a month after giving an apology for his company’s recent mistakes during two grueling days of U.S. congressional hearings, Zuckerberg has had rather less time to respond to members of the European Parliament who demanded answers -- and contrition -- after 2.7 million European Facebook users were compromised by political data firm Cambridge Analytica.

At a meeting at the EU assembly in Brussels, Zuckerberg repeated what he’s been telling every audience recently: that his company didn’t take a broad enough view of its responsibility for user data, fake news and foreign interference in elections and that he is sorry for that.

“It’s also become clear over the last couple of years that we haven’t done enough to prevent the tools we’ve built from being used for harm as well,” he said in comments streamed over the internet from the EU assembly. “Whether it’s fake news, foreign interference in elections or developers misusing people’s information, we didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibilities. That was a mistake, and I’m sorry.”

The revelations that the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users and their friends may have been misused by Cambridge Analytica, has been called a game changer in the world of data protection as regulators seek to raise awareness about how to secure information.

While the European Parliament’s powers are limited to scrutinizing draft legislation, its members, along with the European Commission, the EU’s executive agency, have used the scandal as a reminder of why tough new EU privacy rules kicking in at the end of next week are justified.

Tuesday’s events had been scheduled to take part behind closed doors. But that plan was torn up following fierce criticism by EU officials such as EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who is in charge of overseeing the new legislation, which gives regulators the power to levy massive fines for violating tougher privacy principles.

The 34-year-old CEO spent about 10 hours testifying in front of the U.S. Congress in April. His European Union appearance was scheduled to last a little longer than an hour. The parliament will separately organize a hearing with Facebook representatives to examine data protection that will also look at the potential impact on the election process.

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