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Australian MPs threaten to summon Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to Australia

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may be called before the Australian Parliament if government MPs make good on threats made last night.

The statements by senior members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security follow revelations in the New York Times this week that Facebook has long-standing data access deals with Chinese smartphone manufacturers including Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo.

Zuckerberg: Has been appearing before legislators

In the data deals revealed by the New York Times, Facebook agreed in the late 2000s to incorporate data-sharing features with smartphone manufacturers in return for them building the social media service’s feature into their software. Along with the Chinese brands, Facebook had similar deals with Canada’s BlackBerry, the US’ Apple and Korea’s Samsung.

Quoted in The Australian, deputy chair of the committee, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, said: “It is completely unacceptable that information from Facebook users has been slyly handed over to Huawei, by Facebook.”

His comments were endorsed by the committee’s chair, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie.

The posturing comes as Facebook – along with other digital platforms – has been threatened with a Federal government digital economy tax . Digital platforms are also being investigated in an ACCC inquiry over their influence on the Australian media and marketing industry.

Should Zuckerberg appear before the Australian Parliament it will be one of the latest in a roadshow of appearances before legislators, having testified over two days before the US Congress in April and meeting EU legislators last month where he was accused of creating a digital monster.

Bryne: Facebook’s actions are ‘unacceptable’ 

In a media statement about the New York Times story, Facebook’s VP for mobile partnerships, Francisco Varela, said: “Huawei is the third-largest mobile manufacturer globally and its devices are used by people all around the world, including in the United States and Australia.

“Facebook along with many other US tech companies have worked with them and other Chinese manufacturers to integrate their services onto these phones. Facebook’s integrations with Huawei, Lenovo, OPPO and TCL were controlled from the get go — and we approved the Facebook experiences these companies built.

“Given the interest from Congress, we wanted to make clear that all the information from these integrations with Huawei was stored on the device, not on Huawei’s servers.”

Mumbrella has contacted the Parliamentary committee for comment.

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