Mark Zuckerberg vexes EU Parliament as he 'avoids questions' in data leak grilling

Mark Zuckerberg vexes EU Parliament as he 'avoids questions' in data leak grilling

Mark Zuckerberg's meeting with the leaders of the European Parliament to discuss the Cambridge Analytica data leak ended in acrimony, with complaints that the Facebook founder didn't answer a single question.

Zuckerberg arrived in Brussels on Tuesday to be questioned by leaders of the parliament’s eight main political groups about how the data of millions of Facebook users ended up in the hands of a political consultancy firm.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani welcomes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Credit: Getty

However, the publicly live-streamed meeting has been deemed a "failure", with the CEO being allowed to evade questions and give vague answers, as he fielded allegations that his social media site held too much power.

Slammed by the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Guy Verhofstadt as "unacceptable", the 90-minute session saw 12 MEPS  ask dozens of overlapping questions, that allowed Zuckerberg to pick and choose his answers.

Belgian MEP Verhofstadt afterwards wrote on Twitter that the "precooked format was inappropriate and ensured Zuckerberg could avoid our questions".

In addition, Philippe Lamberts of the Greens told the Facebook founder: "I asked you six ‘yes or no’ questions; I got not a single answer."

When the session ran out of time, the company's boss promised that his firm would follow up on questions with written answers, stating: "I realise there were a lot of specific questions that I didn’t get around to answer."

However, his assurance wasn't enough for many leaders, including Damian Collins, the UK Conservative MP who chairs the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, which Zuckerberg has refused three times to appear before.

Global activists of Avaaz, set up cardboard cutouts of Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, on which is written 'Fix Fakebook' Credit: Getty

Deeming the meeting as "a missed opportunity for proper scrutiny", Collins stated: "Questions were blatantly dodged on shadow profiles, sharing data between WhatsApp and Facebook, the ability to opt out of political advertising, and the true scale of data abuse on the platform. Unfortunately, the format of questioning allowed Mr Zuckerberg to cherry-pick his responses and not respond to each individual point."

During the conference - broadcast live after complaints about an original plan for a closed-door meeting - Zuckerberg also repeated much of what he told US lawmakers during 10 hours of hearings in Washington last month.

The public appearance comes after it emerged that data firm Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign, was given unauthorized access to up to 87 million users' data.

Zuckerberg - who was warned he risks being remembered as “a genius who created a digital monster” by senior member of the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt - has since apologised for the leak and announced that his company is changing the way it shares data with third-party applications. However, questions still remain over how exactly the leak happened.

The meeting came just three days before strict new European Union rules on data protection come in, which will see companies receiving fines of up to four per cent of global turnover for any breaches.