Mark Zuckerberg to Meet European Parliament Members Over Facebook’s Data Use

LONDON — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, plans to meet with members of the European Parliament as early as next week, the latest stop in a wide-ranging apology tour over the social network’s use of people’s personal data.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision to travel to Brussels comes as Facebook faces a barrage of public criticism over how the data of tens of millions of its users was harvested without their consent, as well as concerns over the company’s role in elections around the world and questions over whether it has moved quickly enough to remove inflammatory content.

His visit will involve a closed-door session with leaders of the European Parliament’s various blocs and the head of the body’s civil liberties committee, which is holding hearings on Facebook’s practices, as well as a stop in Paris, where Mr. Zuckerberg is set to have lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss a range of issues.

Senior European officials and lawmakers were quick to question why Mr. Zuckerberg’s meeting in Brussels would be private. While the Facebook chief executive had been hesitant to appear before government inquiries in the past, opting to send lawyers or senior deputies in his stead, he faced a two-day public grilling in Congress last month.

His planned appearance in Brussels highlights the breadth of the international concern over how Facebook failed to prevent political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica from obtaining and using the data of many as 87 million of its users.

“Our citizens deserve a full and detailed explanation,” the European Parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I welcome Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to appear in person.”

Mr. Tajani added: “It is a step in the right direction toward restoring confidence.”

A Facebook spokesman confirmed Mr. Zuckerberg’s visit and said the company had accepted the legislature’s “proposal to meet with leaders of the European Parliament and appreciate the opportunity for dialogue, to listen to their views and show the steps we are taking to better protect people’s privacy.”

The meeting in Brussels is likely to take place next Tuesday or Wednesday, officials said. The proceedings will not be televised. A spokesman for Mr. Tajani said lawmakers in attendance will be able to speak freely about it, and a verbatim transcript of the meeting will be released afterward.

The format of the meeting was the result of weeks of tense negotiations between Mr. Tajani’s office and Facebook, according to Pedro López de Pablo, a spokesman for the European People’s Party, the biggest party in parliament, which endorsed Mr. Tajani’s proposed format.

Still, one European lawmaker who was invited to the meeting with Mr. Zuckerberg said he would not attend if it was not made public. “It must be a public hearing — why not a Facebook Live?” said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of a liberal group in the European Parliament.

The prospect of Mr. Zuckerberg publicly testifying before the European Parliament would have raised the profile of an institution whose 751 members rarely make international headlines. The body does not directly regulate Facebook or other technology companies.

Yet Europe has won a reputation in recent years as the technology industry’s toughest watchdog. Officials in the region have investigated Facebook for the improper handling of customer data, fined Amazon and other companies over their tax practices and penalized firms like Google for antitrust violations.

The timing of Mr. Zuckerberg’s announcement, and of his visit to Brussels, coincides with Europe’s introduction next week of the world’s most aggressive rules for protecting data privacy. Under the new rules, called the General Data Protection Regulation, which will be enacted on May 25, regulators in the bloc’s 28 member states will get the power to fine companies up to 4 percent of their global revenue for violations — a sum equivalent to $1.6 billion in Facebook’s case.

On Wednesday, European leaders plan to discuss data protection, the scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and the impact the issue has had on elections in the region, according to Vera Jourova, the region’s justice commissioner.

“It shows Zuckerberg really is worried about the effects of regulation and the potential for more,” said Michael Carrier, a law professor at Rutgers University who focuses on antitrust issues and intellectual property law. Mr. Carrier added that the trip demonstrated the leading role Europe plays in regulating the tech sector.

Most concerning for Mr. Zuckerberg and others in Silicon Valley, Mr. Carrier said, was a broader skepticism of the industry. “Big tech is under the public microscope from the left and the right,” he said.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s trip to Brussels will be another stop on what has been has been a lengthy contrition tour meant to stem the public outcry over Facebook’s handling of user data. The chief executive posted a public apology on Facebook before testifying before Congress last month, accepting personal responsibility for the issue and vowing to “step up.” Since then, the Silicon Valley company has begun an advertising campaign in which it has promised to do more to clean up the platform.

Facebook has also announced new privacy and security settings that give people more control over their data. This week, the company said it had suspended 200 third-party apps pending a further review of how they had handled Facebook data.

But Mr. Zuckerberg has some limits. On Monday, Facebook said the chief executive would not appear before a British parliamentary committee that has repeatedly asked that he answer questions in person. In a letter, the company said it was declining an invitation from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which has criticized Facebook for responding to its inquiry into how the company handles British citizens’ data with “insufficient” evidence.

Follow Prashant S. Rao, Sheera Frenkel and Milan Schreuer on Twitter: @prashantrao, @sheeraf and @MilanSchreuer.

Prashant S. Rao reported from London, Sheera Frenkel from San Francisco and Milan Schreuer from Brussels. Adam Satariano contributed reporting from Dublin, and Elian Peltier from Paris.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B3 of the New York edition with the headline: Zuckerberg to Meet With E.U. Leaders Amid Outcry Over Data Use. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe