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German justice minister to meet Facebook management in escalating data scandal

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-03-26 23:51

Facebook data scandal. [Photo/VCG]

BERLIN - German Justice Minister Katarina Barley will meet with senior Facebook executives to discuss the US social media company's role in an ongoing data-handling scandal and how it sought to address privacy issues, local media reported.

Barley demanded a "comprehensive investigation" into whether German users were affected by the illegal use of information from millions of Facebook profiles during "electoral strategy" work by UK-based data company Cambridge Analytica for President Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the British Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.

Speaking to the public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday night, Barley said that it was possible that Facebook would have to provide full transparency on its algorithms as a consequence of judicial investigations.

Barley described the social network as a "threat to democracy and the rule of law". She further emphasized that it was the responsibility and right of the European Union (EU) and its member state governments to determine the rules of the game by which tech companies must operate in the bloc.

Amongst others, Facebook's European chief lobbyist Richard Allen is scheduled to attend the meeting at the German ministry of justice. The US social media giant has rejected any accusations of wrongdoing and instead blames Cambridge Analytica, the London-based company without any formal ties to the prestigious university, for a "breach of trust".

According to media reports, Cambridge Analytica used an application designed by the Russian academic Aleksandr Kogan to illegally access the data of around 50 million Facebook users. The information was used in the process of targeted campaign adds to sway voters in favor of casting their ballot for US President Donald Trump.

Politicians of German Social Democrat, which is part of the "grand coalition", have called for tighter regulations on so-called "micro targeting" with online advertisements in reaction to the revelations.

There was an urgent need for "verifiable transparency guidelines" in the selection and use of data by algorithms, SPD digitalization spokesperson Jens Zimmerman told the newspaper Handelsblatt on Monday.

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