In 2012, Sasha Issenberg wrote of how the Obama campaign had “‘targeted sharing’ protocols and mined an Obama backer’s Facebook network in search of friends the campaign wanted to register, mobilize, or persuade.” No scandal ensued — rather, the Obama team was hailed as geniuses who changed campaigning forever.
But in 2018, Facebook and Zuckerberg may find themselves on the wrong side of history. The Cambridge Analytica blowup is turning a spotlight on the most smug and pecksniffian large company in America. Over time, Facebook has garnered large amount of data mainly to sell ads.
This is not inherently bad, however, it rings false when Facebook starts to talk about connectivity and openness when Mr. Zuckerberg has made roughly $63 billion as the champion of “the global community”.
Sure. In an interview with Savannah Guthrie of the Today show last week, Sheryl Sandberg was asked what product Facebook sells. “We’re selling the opportunity to connect with people,” she said, before catching herself, “but it’s not for sale.”
Something or other must be for sale, or Facebook is the first company to rocket to the top ranks of corporate America based on having no product or profit motive. Guthrie, persisting, stated that Facebook sweeps up data for the use of advertisers. Sandberg objected: “We are not sweeping data. People are inputting data.” Okay?
When he was a student at Harvard, Zuckerberg boasted of having data on thousands of students because “people just submitted it.”
Yes, that is what we do.
On the one hand, Facebook has indeed made efforts to protect the data of its users, knowing that it can’t risk a fundamental breach of trust. On the other, Zuckerberg has repeatedly said he’s sorry for offenses against his users’ privacy because his business model contradicts his self-righteous public posture.
The company is deeply committed to that posture. In the Today interview, Sandberg made a confession: “We were very idealistic and not rigorous enough.”
In his prepared testimony before a House committee, Zuckerberg declared: “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company. For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.”