**Revealed: Facebook’s global lobbying against data privacy laws **
Social network targeted legislators around the world, promising or threatening to withhold investment
Facebook has targeted politicians around the world – including the former UK chancellor, George Osborne – promising investments and incentives while seeking to pressure them into lobbying on Facebook’s behalf against data privacy legislation, an explosive new leak of internal Facebook documents has revealed.
Most revealingly, it includes details of the company’s “great relationship” with Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister at the time, one of a number of people it describes as “friends of Facebook”. Ireland plays a key role in regulating technology companies in Europe because its data protection commissioner acts for all 28 member states. The memo has inflamed data protection advocates, who have long complained about the company’s “cosy” relationship with the Irish government.
The memo notes Kenny’s “appreciation” for Facebook’s decision to locate its headquarters in Dublin and points out that the new proposed data protection legislation was a “threat to jobs, innovation and economic growth in Europe”. It then goes on to say that Ireland is poised to take on the presidency of the EU and therefore has the “opportunity to influence the European Data Directive decisions”. It makes the extraordinary claim that Kenny offered to use the “significant influence” of the EU presidency as a means of influencing other EU member states “even though technically Ireland is supposed to remain neutral in this role
It goes on: “The prime minister committed to using their EU presidency to achieve a positive outcome on the directive.” Kenny, who resigned from office in 2017, did not respond to the Observer’s request for comment.
John Naughton, a Cambridge academic and Observer writer who studies the democratic implications of digital technology, said the leak was “explosive” in the way it revealed the “vassalage” of the Irish state to the big tech companies. Ireland had welcomed the companies, he noted, but became “caught between a rock and a hard place”. “Its leading politicians apparently saw themselves as covert lobbyists for a data monster.”
A spokesperson for Facebook said the documents were still under seal in a Californian court and it could not respond to them in any detail: “Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context.”