As the threat of data privacy regulation looms across the world, Facebook has hired former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as its global affairs and communications team head, according to the Financial Times.
Clegg, 51, will move to Silicon Valley in January to succeed Elliot Schrage, who announced his departure from the company this summer. Clegg was a member of the UK Parliament until last year, having led the Liberal Democrats party in a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives for five years.
Perhaps most importantly for Facebook, Clegg has served as a European Commission trade negotiator
Clegg has served as a European Commission trade negotiator, which, in the past few years, has served some of Silicon Valley’s most valuable companies billions of dollars in fines for violating regulations. The most prominent of these fines was the nearly $5 billion the commission slapped on Google last year for anti-competitive behaviors involving the company’s Android operating system.
Facebook’s decision to hire Clegg could signal that it is looking to push back against the EU’s continued efforts to regulate tech companies. Tensions over data privacy have piqued recently. The company has struggled with lawmaker concerns over Russian election meddling, data breaches, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Members of the US Congress along with officials from the European Union have criticized the company for not doing enough to combat these threats.
The current European Commission’s commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, Věra Jourová, has been taking a close look at Facebook’s current policies on privacy and transparency over data, saying that the regulatory body could sanction the company over its terms of service as early as next year.
Earlier this year, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, bumping up privacy standards significantly for companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Clegg’s addition to the upper echelons of Facebook could help the company circumnavigate these relatively new and sweeping rules.
In an op-ed for iNews UK last year, Clegg defended Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants. “Give me a break,” Clegg wrote. “I know Mark Zuckerberg et al are regularly criticised for not doing enough to stop fake news and extremism, and doing too much to mine our data for the benefit of advertisers, but a threat to the continued existence of humankind? Hardly.”