The Facebook engineer was itching to know why he hadn’t responded to her messages on her date. Maybe there was a simple explanation – maybe she was sick or on vacation.
So at 10 a.m. one night at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters, she brought up her Facebook profile on the company’s internal systems and began viewing her personal data. Her politics, her lifestyle, her interests – her real-time location.
The engineer will be fired for his behavior, along with 51 other employees who misused access to the company’s data, a privilege that was then available to everyone working on Facebook, regardless of on-the-job work or seniority. The majority of 51 were just like that: men were looking for information about the women they were interested in.
In September 2015, after bringing the issue to the attention of the new chief security officer, Alex Stamos, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO ordered a rotation of the system to restrict employee rest access to user data. It was a rare victory for Stamos, in which he convinced Zuckerberg to blame the creation of Facebook rather than personal behavior.
So begins An ugly truth, A new book about Facebook written by New York Times P reporters Shera Frankel and Cecilia Kang. Frankel’s expertise in cybersecurity, Kangana’s expertise in technology and regulatory policy, and a well-researched account of their resources, the pair provide an attractive account of Facebook’s years in the 2016 and 2020 elections.
Stemos will no longer be so lucky. Issues arising from Facebook’s business model will only grow in the years to come, but Stamos U.S. Finding more serious problems, including Russian interference in the election, forced Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to face the awkward truth. Once he left, the leadership continued to deny a whole host of deeply troubled problems, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the genocide in Myanmar, and the enormous Kovid misinformation.
Frankel and Kang argue that Facebook’s problems today are not the product of a company that has lost its way. Instead it is part of his very own design, above Zuckerberg’s narrow world view, of the privacy culture he cared for and the surprising ambitions he pursued with Sandberg.
When the company was still small, such a lack of foresight and imagination can be forgiven. But since then, the decisions of Zuckerberg and Sandberg have shown that growth and revenue are everything else.
For example, in the chapter entitled “Company Over Country,” the authors discuss the history of the U.S. The chronology of the authors of how the intelligence community, Congress and the American public tried to bury the extent of Russian election interference from the platform. They censored multiple attempts by the Facebook security team to publish details of what they found, and Cherry selected the data to eliminate the severity and biased nature of the problem. When Stamos proposed redesigning the company’s organization to prevent a recurrence on the issue, other leaders dismissed the idea as “alarmist” and focused their resources on gaining control over public discourse and exposing regulators.