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Facebook founder Zuckerberg's not-quite-apology

zuckerberg.jpgGallery: Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says 'We will keep listening'

This morning's Post features an op-ed from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg expressing a controlled sort of contrition for its recent privacy moves and promising a simpler privacy-settings interface.

Thumbnail image for facebook_logo.jpg

The piece falls short of the "we're sorry" apology you might want. Zuckerberg allows that in Facebook's quest to make it easier for people to connect and share online, "sometimes we move too fast." He goes on to write that in trying to give users maximum control over their exposure on the widely used social network, Facebook "just missed the mark."

I don't think anybody can argue that point. Although some of the complexity of Facebook's privacy interface may have been unavoidable -- you want a social network to allow you to have different levels of friendship, right? -- this series of pages has since become the Microsoft Outlook of social media, poorly documented and intimidatingly complex. A simpler system that wouldn't require that users dream in Venn diagrams could only help, and I'm glad to see Facebook working on that -- along with adding "an easy way to turn off all third-party services" on the site.

(In case you missed the past five versions of this disclaimer, Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham still sits on Facebook's board of directors, and Post staffers and the newspaper as a whole continue to use Facebook for marketing purposes.)

But a bad user interface can reflect poor design underneath, while Zuckerberg's "we move too fast" suggests that he thinks Facebook was going in the right direction all along.

If Facebook's new privacy interface doesn't affect such underlying issues as the Palo Alto, Calif., company's practice of altering settings unilaterally and then expecting users to opt out of those shifts afterward, not enough will have changed. We'll have the same trust problem as ever. And before too long, we'll find ourselves reading yet another "we'll do better" essay from somebody in Facebook management.

Do you take Zuckerberg at his word and expect to get simpler, safer ways to use Facebook? Or do you foresee only continued thumb-wrestling with its privacy options?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 24, 2010; 12:04 PM ET
Categories:  Privacy , Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Facebook, MySpace leaked user data to advertisers
Next: Lessons from AOL as it turns 25


Continued thumbwrestling, I think.

The overarching problem is Facebook's attitude toward its users. Like a newspaper, the company need an ombudsman -- someone internal who ensures the company is not abusing its users' trust, even if users aren't contributing revenue.

As I noted on my blog, "'prompt user protests and a PR firestorm every time you update your product' isn't exactly a sustainable business strategy":

Posted by: Karl123 | May 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Facebook is "not quite" sorry for it's lack of regard for it's members loss of privacy and it's heavy handed and clutching approach to members wanting to leave the site behind... That's okay though, I'm not regretting never having joined for what I recognized as a future threat to my privacy by way of social networking.... It's a pity so many others didn't see it coming.

Posted by: BellsBlu2 | May 24, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Rob- you hit all the points I'm unhappy about.

He didn't say "I'm sorry"

He didn't address opt-in and that there were no notifications.

The only thing you didn't mention, and that really really bothers me- facebook never deleting my data. I deleted a bunch of info from my profile sometime around 2008. With the recent changes, facebook prompted me to put all of it back into my profile and link to public pages-- I'm sorry, but why is it still storing, and prompting me to restore, info I deleted years ago?
I don't like facebook asserting that it has a right to own my data simply because I put it on facebook years ago (I was a college student, and joined it back when it was JUST for colleges).

Posted by: kaths11 | May 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I foresee myself deleting my Facebook account because I don't want to deal with the drama of figuring out how to do it anymore. I liked Facebook better when it was just colleges and universities that had access. Now it's a huge mess and like my MySpace account, will likely get deleted.

Posted by: lo5r | May 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

It's time to dump Facebook the way we dumped MySpace.

Posted by: patrickschabe | May 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh well, back to AOL Instant Messenger.

Posted by: priv05242010 | May 24, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Zuckerberg is a joke. He does not care one iota about anyone's privacy. He only cares about his profitabalility.

Everyone needs to NOT use Facebook at all on June 6 -- to send a message. And, if Facebook and Zuckerberg continue to not listen, then dump Facebook altogether for another social networking site (Diaspora, Collegiate Nation, etc.). Let's all tell Zuckerberg what he can do because he gives/sells away our data.

Yes, Facebook should be ad-supported -- but NOT by selling our data.

Posted by: dajmiller | May 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Hoot from Mark Z's editorial:
"-- We do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone. "

So, Facebook is a charity run out of your pocket money? I guess if you're going to fib, make it a big fib!

Posted by: priv05242010 | May 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

All you lemmings who spend more than 10 minutes a day need to get a hobby besides keeping track of people.

Posted by: password11 | May 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Facebook users = Morons

Zuckerberg = King Moron

Posted by: jimmyjimmy1 | May 24, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I've tried to keep up with the news reports and adjust my settings. But I'm a semi-geek. My friends, most of whom don't want to know anything about this stuff are the ones who will suffer whatever invasions of their privacy these changes bring about.

Just like they suffer on their PC's by not wanting to pay attention to security updates etc. All becoming too much to deal with.

I'm thinking my Facebook days are numbered no matter how much I love the ability to easily share my photos with family and friends.

The rest of it is more a pain in the rear end. Farmville and so many other notifications, seeing political and religious opinions that I didn't ask for, are all starting to make it too much to take.

Not to mention that previously seen content seems to disappear, and then returns to the page for no obvious reason.

And that being able to see the view that others see of your page is an elusive goal.

Posted by: tojo45 | May 24, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Facebook is a business that depends on "network effects" Like the telephone, the more people that use Facebook, the more useful it is. I don't think the people running Facebook fully grasp this. As people drop out because they don't like their personal information exploited, that makes the experience less rich for those who remain. In the same vein, what people say on Facebook determines how rich and interesting an experience it is, and how likely people are to keep using it. Personally, I have lost faith in Facebook, I think they are out to milk every dollar from my personal information that they can. Otherwise, why be so cagey and opaque about privacy? So while I am not going to delete my account - my submissions to Facebook now must pass the "resume test." In other words, could you comfortably staple a copy of any particular post to your resume and not worry about its impact on getting a job? In turn, that makes my posts a lot interesting and a lot less frequent. If any significant number of users act similarly - that's the end of Facebook. Real friends can keep your secrets - Facebook is definitely not one of your real friends.

Posted by: teamw23 | May 24, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

More thumbwrestling. Zuckerberg's waffling hurts Facebook. It is the Board's job to protect the company. It is time for the Board to name a new CEO.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | May 24, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Definitely continued thumb-wrestling. FB's customer base is its advertisers, and users are just data sources to be mined.

But that's not even the main problem for me. And I don't think it would be a big problem for most users, IF Facebook had been up-front about it, and if these options had been opt-in instead of opt-out. A lot of people would have opted in for some of this stuff that's being complained about now; it's just that FB has missed or ignored the psychological aspect of users not being given a choice to begin with.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 24, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

these "I am sorry we tried so hard to help you that we got a bit ahead of you" comments are disingenuous. He is only sorry because he was trying too hard to help us? And the problem is that we were just a bit slower than FB was?
Really? Wow.
Wasn't a lure of FB from MySpace that it would be more private? What happened to that bait-and-switch?
The shark is jumped.
Deactivate and delete.
FB = Fail.
Zuck = Schmuck

Posted by: FloridaChick | May 24, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

He wrote: "We do not share your personal information with people or services you don't want." Until they change their default settings to "No" for all information sharing options, the statement will be fundamentally untrue.

Posted by: austinetc | May 24, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think Facebook is going to find themselves in a lot of trouble if they keep going this way. Their customers are telling them what they want and they aren't listening. Just like IE is losing users left and right so will FB. Too bad they aren't thinking with the right part of their brains.

Posted by: spg2dd | May 24, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Is the Post's opinion page for sale? The boundary between opinion and advertising has apparently been compromised by the WaPo–Facebook "Network News" partnership. The problem is not that Facebook wants to do PR—of course they do. The problem is that the Washington Post has formed business relationships with Facebook and now has an interest in trumpeting their PR wherever it can.

Zuckerberg's piece contains nothing worthy of publication, yet it conveniently received two links from the homepage: one by the Post (in the Opinion links section) and one by Facebook (in the Network News box, which is operated by Facebook). And a third link (most read) certainly should not have been titled "A New Page in Facebook Privacy." There is no "new page" yet, just a new promise. And the main point of Zuckerberg's opinion piece was that Facebook isn't that bad anyway. That doesn't sound like a new page to me.

Posted by: RCJones | May 24, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

This is such a joke. Facebook is simply looking for as many ways to make a buck as possible. Its understandable, but the way they handle it is underhanded. If they want to be above board, simply announce new options, without changing anyone's profile. Let the individual make the choice, with 400 million subscribers, they should generate enough information to make their money. There is no reason to surrender my privacy, which most younger folks fail to comprehend the importance of until they lose it.

Posted by: tyree230 | May 24, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but given Zuck's past comments, I could never trust him to put Facebook's users' privacy ahead of company profits. Ironically, what he really thinks about users' privacy is all too public, and on record. I won't use Google, and I won't use Facebook.

Posted by: krazykat23 | May 24, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but given Zuck's past comments, I could never trust him to put Facebook's users' privacy ahead of company profits. Ironically, what he really thinks about users' privacy is all too public, and on record. I won't use Google, and I won't use Facebook.

Posted by: krazykat23 | May 24, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I am not a participant in facebook for reasons that include those that now worry users. But many of my friends and relatives are users, and have mentioned me in their communications and probably have posted my photo. Any institution that wanted to make the effort could easily identify me by the data available to them on this medium. My question is, have I any rights or protections in all this?

Posted by: mleffert1 | May 24, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Just keep buying the lies and posting your personal data. LOL I promise I will not use it. I swear.

Just wait a few years when these LIB id10t’s start to build a career and the ignorant 5hit they posted comes back to bite them. It will be one of the funniest things in modern history.

Posted by: askgees | May 24, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I foresee myself deleting my Facebook account because I don't want to deal with the drama of figuring out how to do it anymore. I liked Facebook better when it was just colleges and universities that had access. Now it's a huge mess and like my MySpace account, will likely get deleted.
Posted by: lo5r | May 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse
Really? NO IT WON’T It will remain FOREVER. Good luck!!!!!!

Posted by: askgees | May 24, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

This Zuck dude is a little puke -- dump FB now -- let him find a real job.

Posted by: BadNews | May 24, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed facebook, but I'm thinking seriously about deleting my account -- and I'm one of the anal-retentive who have kept up with the privacy changes and reset everything to keep my stuff private (to the extent possible).

The problem with facebook is that they have proven themselves exploitative in a very crass way. I get the impression that the company bears a certain resemblance to its founder.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | May 24, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

It's an interesting conundrum, Facebook. It's perhaps the one place where you actually can take a stand about privacy issues and the institution takes note of it.

Health insurance companies don't mind tossing your personal data around like flyers for a bake sale. Same with credit card companies, as far as I can tell.

A 12-year-old can hack into most household networks.

If you don't shred every receipt and credit card offer, you're probably setting yourself up for identity theft.

The MITRE Group and Noblis have each promulgated some pretty serious privacy standards that are numbing in their complexity.

And still, every person alive can expect identity theft once in their life, last I read.

The sun will still rise and set, and I'll still use the internet, no matter who is examining my packets.

Wisdom or foolishness, none of it matters.

Posted by: argonposting | May 24, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Facebook's mission is monetizing the personal information it has on its users. Its loyalty is to its shareholders. Facebook apologizes to its users only when necessary to keep them from revolting. It then goes back to monetizing its information.

I deactivated my Facebook account after this (latest) fiasco.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | May 24, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The public is not a customer of Facebook but rather a consumer of Facebook software. Facebook has customers who pay them for some service or information. These customers will (and should from a business perspective) get the most attention though much of that attention is hidden from the Facebook consumer.

Posted by: impressed1 | May 24, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Facebook is free. If you don't like it, don't use it. Very simple. It's not a utility that you need to use, like the electricity, gas, phone or even cable television. If you want to use it, read the terms and conditions of use. If you don't like them, don't sign on. Very simple. Don't complain because you're too lazy and/or stupid to understand what you are agreeing to when you open your FB account.

Posted by: emilyt56 | May 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"...even if users aren't contributing revenue."

Don't forget that without users, Facebook would have zero revenue since advertisers would have no use for Facebook.

Posted by: dfl1 | May 24, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

FYI, the Post home page, under the "Technology" sub-head, has a link to a technology trivia quiz from 2006:

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | May 24, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Facebook users need to realize: they are not Facebook's customers, they are Facebook's PRODUCT.

Facebook's customers are the advertisers.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 24, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I happen to agree with Zucker-head's private e-mail thread where he said that the people who handed over personal info about themselves were dumb "*#*$$". That's why I have never signed up to any of the so-called "social networks". Who needs to give people ammo to use against you should it prove profitable (either from embarrassing pictures or dumb admissions of behavior that a future employer might read or even just your e-mail and address to sell to Facebook's advertising customers.) And this doesn't even take into account the sicko stalkers out there that might glom onto your image as something to pursue. What the people on Facebook really need is to get a life, a private one to be enjoyed with people you see face to face and at least can judge the truth of what you're dealing with.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | May 24, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Zucker-head was right in that people who submit private facts about themselves are dumb "#$*&" (as his private thread stated). Why would you put personal info on line for anyone to read or try to use if they can leverage it in some way (i.e., sell the info to the Facebook advertisers or give sicko stalkers or identify theft slezos ideas.) That's why I never joined one of the so-called "social networks." People need to get a private life with real people so that at least they are face to face and can better judge who they are dealing with.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | May 24, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Zuckerberg's semi-apology does nothing to help me regain my privacy. He already sold my information and there is no way to get it back.

Posted by: Shingo56 | May 24, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's inject some reality in this situation. Security is based on perception. Concert promoters use minimum wage folks in yellow jackets to make people feel safe during a concert. The reality is the majority of those workers have no real motivation to protect you. Would you risk your life to protect some stranger for minimum wage? Most of those workers don't even have a radio to get any reinforcement. However, the illusion works, people feel safer with those yellow-jackets standing by. Facebook's ability to survive depends on it's ability to manage the public's perception of it's one key advantage in social networking marketplace -- security. People moved from myspace from facebook because they felt they could share relatively private information (like kid's photos, status information, etc.), plus the fact that it's "free". The constant application changes (and the media's portrayal of them) will weigh heavily on Facebook's ability to survive. Frankly, I don't think that Mark Zuckerberg's statements have helped in changing the status quo. Facebook needs to manage their perception by providing easily identifiable "curtains" of privacy. They had yellow jackets, but now they seem to change their spots every day. This needs to stop, or we'll all be looking for another virtual arena to hang out at.

Posted by: MobileJoel1 | May 24, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

"I am sorry does not work with the police."

Enough said.

He admits his guilt. He needs to be charged for his crimes against the millions who trusted him.

Posted by: Spineman | May 24, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

The fact that he continues with his arrogance after such a strong reaction to his customers means that they are going to follow myspace on the road to decline.

Posted by: revbookburn | May 24, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I and many others will completely delete our Facebook accounts unless all of the following changes are made:

1. The default privacy settings for new users is to hide ALL data from EVERYONE. Users have to opt in if they want to share their data, even with Friends.

2. When a new user signs up, they could be presented with a button to click which will allow their information to be shared with Friends, and ONLY with Friends -- not friends of friends, external web sites, or advertisers. This would be a simple opt-in device that most new users would probably take advantage of.

3. If anyone wants to share their data with others, besides their Friends (i.e., friends of friends, external web sites, advertisers, etc.), they should have to opt in via a procedure that reminds them at each step that they are choosing to give up some of their privacy, and asking them if they really want to do so.

4. Existing users should be presented with a large, prominent, hard-to-ignore button every time they log in, reminding them that their data is being shared, and asking if they want to stop sharing ALL of it and then modifying the privacy settings in the same way that new users would be able to do so, as described above.

If Facebook makes all the changes described above, that will be enough to convince me to keep my account.

However, I have another recommendation for Mark Zuckerberg to consider:

We all need to remember that Facebook profits by "monetizing" our personal information by sharing it with advertisers and others. Because of this, I believe that Facebook should change its business model in the following manner:

They should give each and every user 25 percent of the revenue they generate by sharing that user's data. In other words, if in a given month, Facebook takes in $10 because of sharing my data, they should give me $2.50.

If Facebook adopted that policy, I believe that it would suddenly find itself with even more users than it has today, and the company would therefore be making even more money ... and most of its users would not be complaining.

Posted by: HippopotamusMan | May 24, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Sociopathic-Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It's the only thing that explains why Facebook acts the way it does.

Posted by: aardman | May 25, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

He's an idiot about privacy and I don't trust him to keep his agreements. Opt-out is a path to deletion, but he's too stupid to understand that.

Posted by: Nymous | May 25, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse

To late, Zuckerberger. While I was "opting out", I guess I went a bit further... and permanently removed my Facebook account. Oh... I am not the only one I know who has. Your innovative social network idea has run afoul with marketing dollars. Call me Permanently Opted Out!

Posted by: Protus | May 25, 2010 5:23 AM | Report abuse

I would like to agree with Bitter_Bill's comments about their board, but since Facebook is privately and closely held, the (smallish) board serves at the pleasure of Zuckerberg et al. Now if they would just do an IPO, then maybe they could be held more accountable.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | May 25, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I have yet to read a positive comment about Facebook -- the only ones trumpeting how wonderful it is are:

1) companies with product to push, or
2) lazy dumbass consumers with nothing creative to do with all the time on their hands.

I fall in neither of the above categories and am happy to share news, photos, etc on my own self-controlled website (which included a controlled-user-access section for sensitive data). No one needs Facebook. It's not that hard to host your own website, people.

Posted by: roule | May 26, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

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