Emails written by Facebook's chief and his deputies show the firm struck secret deals to give some developers special access to user data while refusing…
Data breaches, information leaks and misinformation, oh my! Users are facing a multitude of factors influencing the debate on whether they should delete their Facebook accounts due to scandals involving the company. A new wave of users decided Wednesday to leave the site for good following a New York Times report revealing that the social media giant shared users’ personal data with third-party sites such as Netflix, Spotify and Amazon. “I remember simpler times, when my biggest facebook concern was whether I was tagged in that photo with my buddy's bong visible in the background. Burn it down. #DeleteFacebook,” Twitter user @mjdono25 wrote.
It's a question that gets asked every time Facebook does something wrong, which seems to happen with rather depressing regularity: could this be the point at which public opinion finally begins to turn and people to delete their accounts, or at least stop using the service so much? Or will the vast majority of users ignore the latest incident, the way they have so many similar events over the past few years? The latest incident, of course, was a report from The New York Times just before the holidays that suggested Facebook provided data access to certain tech giants that went far beyond what it told users, even after the company promised the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 that it would clean up its act. Although the details of the Times report were exaggerated in some cases (as I have noted), the news was enough to convince certain prominent users and celebrities to quit the network. Walt Mossberg, the veteran technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, announced that he was deleting his account, as did Columbia University law professor and author Tim Wu, and the singer and pop-cultural icon known as Cher. Reaction to the Times story triggered a #DeleteFacebook hashtag campaign on Twitter, one that hit the trending topics section, and a number of news outlets—including The New York Times—wrote articles about how to delete your account (your account isn’t actually deleted until 30 days after you make the request, and it can take up to 90 days for all your data to be removed).
It’s becoming a cliché in public hearings: the empty chair with the name of a senior executive who should be there answering questions but has chosen not to attend.
Congress did it when Google refused to send CEO Sundar Pichai to a hearing in August, and a multi-governmental hearing in Britain into Facebook’s transgressions did it on Tuesday with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, making sure a chair with his name on it was prominently positioned at center stage for the TV and newspaper cameras.
(Facebook VP of Public Policy Richard Allan was questioned in his place.) There was also a predictable amount of grandstanding to go along with the dramatic accoutrements, with MPs and senior ministers from Britain, Canada, Argentina, and several other countries, complaining about Facebook. “Our democratic institutions have been upended by frat-boy billionaires from California,” Canadian MP Charlie Angus said.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive officer, and Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, believe Facebook's negative image is a public relations problem that stems from a bungled press strategy and sensational media coverage, not a structural or philosophical shortcoming that requires a wholesale course correction, six Facebook sources familiar with their thinking told NBC News. The sources asked not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly. As a result, some inside Facebook believe the company's leaders are likely to respond to the current controversy in the near-term by revamping their communications strategy, not by making drastic changes to personnel or the platform. To critics from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill, that is likely to be seen as a continuation of the "delay, deny and deflect" strategy covered by The New York Times that got them into hot water in the first place.