Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Addresses the E.U.’s Data Privacy Law at Paris’ Viva Tech

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation was one of the hot topics debated during the third edition of the CES-inspired digital conference Viva Tech, which brought together such high-profile speakers as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Zuckerberg was interviewed by Publicis Groupe chairman Maurice Levy on May 24, a couple of days after appearing at the European Parliament to address data privacy, fake news and his company’s monopoly power. At VivaTech, Zuckerberg discussed some of the these hot-button issues, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation which kicked off the following day, May 25.

Zuckerberg, who was greeted like a rock star at Viva Tech, said Facebook has been submitting a GDPR privacy flows to users to ask permission about gathering some data from apps they use; and found that “the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so we can use the data from other apps and websites they’re using to make ads better.”

“The reality is that if you’re going to see ads in a service, you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said the CEO.

Zuckerberg said Europeans were particularly concerned about privacy due to the continent’s history — notably in Germany, where the Stasi (the former East German secret police) spied on the population. Yet, he added that “everyone cares about privacy. That’s not only here, that’s a global thing,” which is why Facebook will be rolling out the GDPR protections to Facebook users “all around the world.”

Reflecting on the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg reiterated his apologies and said Facebook
was investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and hiring thousands of people to actively prevent and track down bad content.

“By the end of this year we’re going to have more than 20,000 people at the company working on security and content review to make sure that we get rid of bad content,” said Zuckerberg, who added that “99% of the ISIS and Al-Qaeda related content is flagged by (Facebook’s) AI system before any person in our community reports it.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook had not taken “a broad enough view of how people might use these tools for harm, and that goes for fake news, for interference in elections, hate speech and for developers potentially using the tools in ways that don’t respect people’s privacy.”

“We need to take a broader view of our responsibility to make sure that we’re not just reacting to issues as they come up but they’re out there trying to prevent any issues from happening going forward,” said the CEO.

The three-day conference, which wrapped on May 26, welcomed more than 1,800 startups from 50 countries and over 100,000 participants, a 47% year-on increase.

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