Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy apology tour landed in Brussels on Tuesday — with a thud. In a highly compressed rehash of his marathon testimony before US Congress last month, the Facebook founder apologized for not taking a “broad enough view” of the company’s responsibilities to prevent foreign election interference, privacy abuses, and the like. He deflected tougher questions about breaking up his company and then time ran out before lawmakers could press him further.
But if Zuckerberg’s anodyne and apologetic performances on both sides of the Atlantic were roughly similar, the challenges his company faces in the US and Europe are very different. US lawmakers are unlikely to do much to rein in Facebook, but in Europe, emboldened regulators are taking a hard look privacy issues and whether companies that lord over massive amounts of data have too much market power. Meanwhile, the EU’s tough new data protection rules, which take effect across the bloc on Friday, are bigger than Beyoncé. Facebook and thousands of other companies around the world will have to follow them or risk huge fines.
Zuckerberg may have frustrated EU lawmakers by dodging their barbed questions, but in contrast to the toothless US, Europe is already forcing big changes to the way Facebook does business. It may only be a matter of time before the Facebook founder is back in Brussels for an extended groveling session.