Magazine article Newsweek International

Facebook's False Contrition

Magazine article Newsweek International

Facebook's False Contrition

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Lyons

Mark Zuckerberg won't say he's sorry, but the 26-year-old CEO and founder of Facebook promises to change his ways--a little. His non-apology came last week after mounting outrage at recent alterations to Facebook's privacy--actually, anti-privacy--policy, and was delivered as an op-ed in The Washington Post. Zuckerberg put on his best innocent-little-boy voice and claimed Facebook had changed its rules only to help people share more information, because "a world that's more open and connected is a better world." In addition to that risible rubbish, Zuckerberg also said Facebook intends to amend its privacy policy to address complaints. (The Washington Post Company's chairman, Donald E. Graham, sits on Facebook's board of directors, but he e-mailed me to say he had nothing to do with the piece. The Post Company recently put NEWSWEEK up for sale.) I doubt these changes will be substantive, but even if they are, it's too little, too late.

Facebook's current troubles began in April, when it rolled out new rules that push members to share more info about themselves. The company also said it would start sharing info with partners like Yelp, Pandora, and Microsoft. Tech pundits howled. Some users vowed to quit the site. Government officials threatened to take action. Facebook responded with spinmeisters who ludicrously claimed there was nothing wrong with the new policy--Facebook just hadn't explained it well enough. When that didn't wash, Zuckerberg promised to make Facebook's privacy controls simpler to use.

So we're all set, then? Well, no. In the past five years Facebook has repeatedly changed its privacy policy, always in one direction, and every time this happens, the same movie plays out: people complain, Facebook stonewalls, then spins, then pretends to be contrite, then finally walks things back--a bit. …

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