Open letter to MEPs: The most crucial question to ask Mark Zuckerberg

Cliqz suggests the MEPs to ask the Facebook CEO directly about shadow profiles and off-Facebook browsing data collected from non-Facebook users.

Björn GreifEditor

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg finally will be questioned by Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday, May 22. Cliqz asks MEPs in an open letter to interrogate Mr. Zuckerberg on the most crucial question about the privacy of all internet users: shadow profiles and off-Facebook surveillance.

Update May 22: Other than initially planned, the hearing will be open to the public. You can watch it live on the European Parliament website. The broadcast will start at 6:20 PM CEST.

Please find hereafter the open letter.

Dear President of the European Parliament,
Dear Members of the Conference of Presidents,
Dear Members of the European Parliament,
Dear Members of the LIBE Committee,

A few weeks ago, the members of the US Congress let Mark Zuckerberg get away with feigning ignorance on the most critical questions about the privacy of all Internet users: Does Facebook create “shadow profiles” – i.e. profiles of non-members – and does Facebook collect information about people outside of the Facebook platform. We are hopeful and confident that our representatives will be more tenacious.

Since the parliamentary hearing was organized as a closed-door meeting to respect Mr. Zuckerberg’s privacy, allow us to suggest some key questions to ask him directly:

Mr. Zuckerberg: Cliqz’s researchers have established that Facebook’s tracking scripts are on more than 1 out of 3 pages of the web, collecting people’s browsing behavior combined with unique identifiers. The Cambridge Analytica data leak affected 2.7 million EU citizens whereas off-Facebook data collection affects every single internet user in the world, regardless whether he or she is a Facebook member of not.

Why do you collect this data and do you store this data?

You have announced a few weeks ago that you will offer Facebook members the possibility of deleting this data (which suggests that you do store this data). When will people see the data you have collected and stored? How many months of browsing history did you store? Will non-Facebook members be offered the possibility to see and destroy their data?

Where exactly in your past privacy policies did you tell your users that you were collecting and storing this data? Did you seek to receive consent for this sort of collection from your users in preparation for GDPR?

Dear Members of Parliament, please do not allow Mr. Zuckerberg to plead ignorance on these important question as he did in front of the US Congress. Even if he did not know at the time, he does know as his announcement a few weeks later made clear. Please insist on clear answers about the extent of tracking of users and non-users outside of Facebook properties. You can pin him down with one simple, unambiguous question: Do you store off-Facebook browsing data collected from non-Facebook users?

For our part, we build tools to keep Facebook and others from creating shadow profiles of internet users. We are a German start-up backed by Burda and Mozilla and we build browser, search and data protection technologies. Our Cliqz and Ghostery browsers make the hidden surveillance network of tracking scripts visible for everyone.

Our data scientists would be more than happy to show you, dear Members of the Parliament, some examples of how dangerous tracking-based data collection is.

Please, do not allow the strong platforms of this world to destroy the privacy of your citizens. As proud citizens of the EU, we count on you!

Yours faithfully,

The Cliqz Team

Marc Al-Hames
Managing Director, Cliqz GmbH

Jean-Paul Schmetz
Founder, Cliqz GmbH