It’s been revealed that George Osborne, a former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked by Facebook to influence the legislation of the European Data Protection Laws, now known as GDPR. According to an Observer report, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook reportedly invited one of Osborne’s children to the Facebook office as a part of lobbying efforts.
Osborne previously mentioned to Sandberg that his children were desperate to have a Facebook account. Upon knowing this, she invited one of them to the Facebook office. This incident dates back to 2013 when the European Data Protection Laws were under development. It came to light because of the investigation of Facebook by the US Government. The investigation was triggered by the WSJ’s report about how Facebook was harvesting sensitive user data through applications.
The incident outlined above highlights the lobbying efforts of Facebook to ensure that the data privacy laws were in their favor. As a matter of fact, it was reported that Sandberg asked Osborne to be more active and vocal in his concerns and help in shaping the proposals.
Sandberg also managed to please Osborne when she offered to work with him on launching a course focused on app-building for children of the ‘under-served’ schools in London. This detail came from an internal memo that was marked “highly confidential.”
During the World Economic Forum in 2013, Facebook heavily mobilized its staff to lobby the politicians and policymakers. In a memo Sandberg wrote after the WES, she described the lobbying efforts as an uphill battle. It was also known that many of the policymakers told the staff that their children who were under 13 years of age were very enthusiastic in opening an account on Facebook. However, Facebook’s prescribed age for opening an account is 13 years and above.
It was also revealed that Facebook was successful in encouraging the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, the then president of the European Union to influence the privacy and data protection laws in favor of Facebook.
Facebook’s efforts to make the privacy laws favorable and less damaging for the company underlines their far-thought schemes to harvest data.