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Oscar Williams

News editor

ICO refers Facebook to Irish Data Protection Commission over outstanding privacy concerns

The UK’s data protection regulator is referring Facebook to the Irish Data Protection Commission over outstanding privacy concerns.

Appearing before parliament’s fake news inquiry on Tuesday (6 November), the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she remained concerned “about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques used to monitor individuals’ browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices”.

The ICO has led the European investigation into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, but its Irish counterpart has ultimate authority over the company in regards to European data protection legislation.

Facebook needs to significantly change its business model

Denham praised the social media giant for taking voluntary steps to boost transparency around the funding of advertising on its platform, but added that it has a “long way to go to change practices to a point where people have deep trust in the platform”.

“We’ve seen some evidence on the voluntary side of facebook being more transparent. but I think they need to do more and should be subject stricter regulation and oversight,” she told MPs. “Facebook needs to significantly change its business model and their practices to maintain trust. They need to take much more responsibility.”

Quizzed over whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should appear before the committee, Denham said his presence would be “very useful”.

Earlier this year, the Facebook CEO ignored a formal summons from the inquiry urging him to answer questions about his company’s role in promoting disinformation.

But in a renewed bid to grill the Facebook CEO, the inquiry has now teamed up with its Canadian counterpart to hold a joint hearing on the subject on 27 November.

In a letter co-signed by Canadian politician Bob Zimmer, Damian Collins – the Conservative chair of the inquiry – described Zuckerberg’s evidence as “overdue and urgent”.

“Given your self-declared objective to “fix” Facebook, and to prevent the platform’s malign use in world affairs and democratic process, we would like to give you the chance to appear at this hearing,” the politicians wrote.

Asked by the New Statesman earlier this year about why Zuckerberg had repeatedly snubbed calls to appear before the committee, Collins said: “Maybe he fears that he would be subjected to a level of scrutiny that he has not had elsewhere. The format of our hearings lends itself much better to proper questioning than the US Senate’s.”