An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg
First, congrats on building Facebook into the world's largest social network. You now have about as many users as the US has residents and China has people on the internet. That makes Facebook a very important platform and you a very influential decision-maker on how this new Conversational Age will unfold in the coming years.
I'm writing you now because of your recent remarks during a recent eight-minute interview where you said that you try to maintain "a beginner's view" of Facebook and make decisions as if you were starting your company today. In that light you decided to open all Facebook user information in the interest of transparency and because you believes your 350 million users were now comfortable with it.
Mark, I have to say, I think you are wrong in so many ways.
We may be in transparent times. If we are I applaud a new age of transparency. But there is a big difference between transparency and privacy. Let me illustrate:
I may elect to blog about taking a work day off and using the time to take a romantic walk on the beach with my wife. I may post a picture of her and my dog on that beach. But their are elements that I keep private. Perhaps we share an intimate moment in the sand dunes. I elect not to tell you about that part.
So there are a few pieces to this. First, I disclosed personal stuff including some photos of loved ones and a confession that I was playing when I should have been working. I also elected to hold back certain parts of the day because they were private.
Transparency is important in business as well. Businesses, using venues such as Facebook are learning that it is safe and wise to be far more transparent today than they were at the beginning of the last decade. But that safety comes from the assurance that they can keep certain matters private and that they get to decide what information they should hold back.
Mark, I have no problem really with the data you just released to the world about me. I'm a pretty transparent person and all the stuff you released is pretty public already. But Mark, I have a huge problem with you deciding to release that stuff about me. I would greatly prefer to have been asked. I'm betting a good percentage of your other 349,999,999 users do as well.
You see, we agreed to other rules. We did not know that you would start every day as if Facebook were brand new and could then change the rules on us and many of us just don't like it.
To be honest Mark, you are building up a compelling case that there is a command-and-control aspect to your customer approach that a few generals might envy. A couple of years back, you decided to use advertising to monetize Facebook without asking customers.
In response, your users started an "I hate Facebook" campaign, using Facebook itself as the group's epicenter. I thought you were wise to have backed off. I had hoped that you would have learned a lesson. Apparently this was not the case.
Mark, as I stated Facebook is a force to be reckoned with. You can probably get away with this. But please think about the precedent you are setting. If you ca share my user name and email account, why can't the next guy unilaterally share my phone number, and street address. How about pictures of my grandchildren along with the schools they attend and the routes they walk to get there?
Then there a great question about what banks, credit cards and governments might do down the line.
The term "slippery slope" is little bit overworked, but Mark, honestly, I feel you have just put 350 million of us at the top of a mountain on a toboggan that you remotely control and have gien us a swift push down a steep trajectory.
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