Facebook has been targeting politicians to lobby against data privacy laws: Report

Facebook even threatened to withhold investments until countries promised to support friendly laws.

Social media giant, Facebook, has been trying to influence politicians across parts of the world into joining its lobbying campaign against data privacy laws.

A fresh set of documents have come to the fore, spotted by the likes of the Observer and Computer Weekly, which reveal that Facebook tried to influence politicians and legislators in the UK, India, Canada, Vietnam, Brazil, Malaysia, as well as, all 28 member states of the EU.

The internal documents revealed that Facebook's secretive global lobbying operation was strategically laid out to tackle legislation which affected Facebook in any way, including data privacy — Europe's GDPR legislation being a key area of focus. The document also alleges that Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, asked the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to "help shape the (GDPR) proposals" at the time by being "more vocal."

Facebook has been targeting politicians to lobby against data privacy laws: Report

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook. Image: Reuters

Osborne speaking to the Observer stated, "I don’t think it’s a surprise that the UK chancellor would meet the chief operating officer of one of the world's largest companies… Facebook and other US tech firms, in private, as in public, raised concerns about the proposed European Data Directive. To your specific inquiry, I didn’t follow up on those concerns, or lobby the EU, because I didn’t agree with them."

Facebook even threatened to withhold investment from countries unless they promised to support or passed Facebook-friendly laws. Facebook even threatened to pull out investments in Canada and Europe if its lobbying demands weren't met.

In fact, the memo also goes on to state that Sandberg's memoir named Lean In (launched in 2013) was also perceived as a lobbying tool by the Facebook team and a means of roping in support from female legislators for Facebook's wider agenda.

The documents which have cropped up after a court case against Facebook by app developer Six4Three in California, reveals that the Facebook CFO considered the GDPR legislation a "critical" threat to the company. To further try and sway the balance in Facebook's favour, the CFO was also in a talk with Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister at the time, and also an individual who happens to be one of an elite list of "friends of Facebook".

As pointed out in a report by The Guardian, the reason why Facebook's relationship with Ireland is under the scanner here is that Ireland plays a key role in regulating technology companies in Europe because its data protection commissioner acts for all 28 member states.

A Facebook spokesman speaking to The Guardian said the documents were still under seal in court and that he could not respond to them in any detail. The spokesman, however, did say, "Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context."

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