Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Mark Zuckerberg’s Nonapology: Facebook “Missed the Mark” With Privacy Controls. But Please Keep Sharing!

After weeks of noisy complaints about Facebook’s newest privacy issues, Mark Zuckerberg used an op-ed in the Washington Post to reverse course and beg his users for forgiveness.

Hah! Not really.

Zuckerberg’s 528-word memo might seem contrite, but only if you skim quickly. Read closely and you’ll see that it’s a classic nonapology–he’s sorry that Facebook “move[d] too fast.” That’s the kind of thing you say in a job interview if someone’s lazy enough to ask you to describe your biggest weakness–“Sometimes I try too hard.”

The Facebook CEO does allow that the company has made its privacy filters too bewildering for normal humans. That will get fixed, he says, “in the coming weeks.”

But Zuckerberg never promises the move Facebook would make if it wanted users to keep their information truly private: Make “private” the default setting and make all sharing options “opt-in.” That is, you broadcast your stuff to the broader world only if you explicitly tell Facebook that’s what you want to do.

And Zuckerberg’s nonmove makes plenty of sense. Facebook has a business plan predicated on the notion that its users want to tell everyone almost everything about themselves. Zuckerberg seems to believe that himself, more or less.

They could be right!

At least on Facebook. Leave aside the professional self-promoters announcing their plans to quit the service. Now ask yourself: Do you know a single soul–who doesn’t work in media or technology–who knows or cares about Facebook’s privacy policy?

I don’t. And I’m someone who thought Facebook’s last round of privacy changes was a disaster in the making.

But that one came and went, and I’m pretty sure this one will too. Because I think that whether or not Facebook users say so out loud, they don’t actually expect anything they publish on a social network to be truly private. That’s why it’s called a social network, right?


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald