I think I actually understand the Mark Zuckerberg strategy for developing technology and making a business of it. It is an approach based on placing a product or a feature out there for the public with a limited understanding of its broad impact. You learn from the responses to the features. If changes or fixes are to be made they will be made based on feedback, and as the problems arise. You experiment with new features. If indeed problems arise for customers, you can respond by apologizing, and it would be an apology that could be sincere since you did not take the trouble to dig more deeply into possible problem scenarios itself.
I think this is a valid approach in some business scenarios and applications, especially if the problems that can arise are most likely to have limited impact on the customer and can be contained, and mostly if the service is free. But Facebook has become too big for this kind of a strategy to continue to work. If too many people are impacted, the government gets involved.
If I were to fault Facebook with regards to the problems they have been having recently, it would be for not recognizing the serious nature of the misuse of the system promptly and responding to it. They seem to have a policy strategy of trying to buy time while not promptly addressing issues that are becoming obvious. They allowed their system to be co-opted by others to spread misinformation as if it was the truth. However, in this context, I am not sure what the authorities can hold them liable for. I am not sure there is any legal basis in current law to prosecute with.
The above problem should be separated from a second one that should not have happened. There seems to have been a breakdown in Facebook’s security process that led to private data being exposed, a breakdown that should have legal repercussions.
Meanwhile, I am highly amused at all the outrage that is being directed Facebook’s way – as if people did not understand the risks they were taking by participating on this platform. Any sensible person should realize that when you place your life story on the Internet, and when you do so with a free service, you are taking a big risk. It is a free service only because your information is being sold to advertisers. You signed away your privacy. And Facebook in particular has pushed the boundaries on how to take advantage of the information you provide. And the platform also seems to be designed to draw out more information about you from you than you might first have been inclined to provide. Also realize that even when you are given options for privacy from a vendor, you are still at the mercy of the vendor. You don’t know what goes on behind the button that you have just pressed, or the data you have entered, on the screen. You could logically believe that they will not take the risk of breaking the law, but anything beyond that is a matter of “trust”.
Would you not be naturally suspicious of a non-philanthropic private organization that provides a free service, and ask yourself how they intend to make money? Would you not read and understand more carefully the User’s Agreement that you have with a company that is offering you the free service?
In this context, we are our own worst enemies. We should be protecting ourselves better even without new regulations from government. People are being manipulated very easily.