NYT Q&A with Facebook exec: lametastically lame

construct2_e0.gifThis NYT Q&A with Facebook exec Elliot Schrage, VP for public policy, has about as much teeth as a chicken. Maggie blogged the call for reader questions last week, but what was published today feels like a big wank for Facebook, and no real answers for anyone. Pathetic. Why was there no attempt by the NYT to poke at what's bogus or unfair in this guy's wiggle-words? Facebook's bottom line seems to be: "If you're using our service to share intimate details of your life with friends and family, you'll take whatever we give you, and we'll change that whenever we want without warning. Hey, you asked for it, privacy and user rights be damned." (via Dan Gillmor)


  1. Active disinformation: Flood the site with fake profiles to de-value Facebook’s product. Scorched-earth seems to be the only option here..

  2. I just read it, and it seems to me that the feeling is, were sorry you feel that way, here is what we are really doing, and we will do everything we can to do a better job of communicating it in the future.

    Of course I’m biased so take my comments with a grain of salt.

  3. My favorite parts:

    “We’ve worked hard to educate our users about changes to, and innovations in, our products.”
    Translation – If you don’t like it, you don’t GET it. We will try to explain it to you again in smaller words.

    “We work hard to serve innovative and conservative users alike.”
    Translation: Letting us dictate the terms of how your personal information is used is innovative. Anything else is conservative. Again, if you don’t like it, it’s because you don’t get it.

    1. I think most facebook users don’t get it. Facebook is not some altruistic non-profit service, it’s a business. And since we’ve voluntarily provided a database to our lives they will gratefully try to mine it for profit. If you don’t like this brave new world of non-stop marketing what you can do, and I think this is good general advice for life in the modern age, is… 1) Limit your public info to the mundane and, 2) Create static/noise.

      What if all we had for favorite activity were banana-peeling and sorting socks? Would facebook collapse because all they could secure in advertising were from Chiquita and Bed, Bath and Beyond?

      Or, they could go to a subscription model.

      1. Facebook is not some altruistic non-profit service, it’s a business.

        A business that’s entering into contracts, implicit and explicit, with minors. Really, how could anybody possibly criticize that?

  4. For what it’s worth, the privacy implications of Facebook opening up relatively benign information from your profile to a select group of partners doesn’t come CLOSE to the insane amount of data aggregated about everyone by utility companies, media outlets, advertising networks, credit companies, and not to mention governments of all sizes.

    Facebook knows what music you like; these other guys know your credit score, your social security number, every address you’ve ever lived at, and how often you vote.

    Xeni, I appreciate you looking out for privacy concerns, but all of this relentless Facebook bashing seems to miss the larger picture. At least companies like Facebook, unreasonably dictatorial as they may be, are making changes with a user-focused product experience in mind, not just pure revenue.

    I mean, it’s not like they’re selling your information here – Facebook doesn’t need your information to be public to make money.

  5. Gee–let’s redefine “opt-out” as “opt-in”

    Just because a user was on the service before a change does not mean they magically opted-in.

    And btw, does anyone else think “400 million” users is a bogus number? Really? I just googled (!) world internet users and got 26.6% of the world population online. 400 million is about 6% of the world population. Unless my math is wrong, that means fb claims almost a quarter of all internet users have an fb account. Fishy.

  6. I took a deep breath and pulled the plug today. I deleted my account.

    Strangely, I didn’t suddenly feel like I was in a cabin on an island during a power outage after the bridge washed out and the boat sank. The phone kept ringing. E-mail kept coming in.

    Life goes on — Facebookless — and the only thing I suspect I *will* miss out on is announcements about my high school reunion.

  7. That Q&A creeped me out because the vice president of “public policy” is completely out of tune and out of tone with how his answers would be perceived. He believes that by speaking words, he shapes reality, and that his victims, I mean customers, will only interpret his words as predigest pabulum, skimming the surface without understanding his evasive responses or the intention below the words. Pitiful.

    Markets are conversations, I heard somewhere…more than a decade ago…

    I deleted my Facebook profile a few months ago, and I sometimes feel like the party has passed me by, but not very often. Not today.

  8. as someone who’s lived in a few different places and who now lives far from home, Facebook serves a very real purpose. Yes, there is that circle of close friends with whom I’ll always be in regular contact, but there are also lots of other people who mean a lot to me but with whom I’m not regularly conversing, and its great to be able to share the important moments in their lives (and vice versa.)

    That said:

    I don’t want to leave my connections to these people to the mercy of a single, fallible service provider.
    I don’t want my relationships to be data-mined (specifically, I don’t want my actions to accidentally open up others’ data for mining.)
    I don’t want these relationships to be subject to a changing (or any, for that matter) ToS.
    I don’t want my relationships moderated.

    I also don’t want my freedom of expression reduced to the insipid, soon-to-be-ubiquitous “like” button.

    There’s got to be a better way than the hub-and-spokes model of Facebook. Or Myspace. Or whatever. I can use any email provider I want to reach any other email address I want. I can even run my own email server if I want to. Why can’t I run my own identity if I want to, and connect to any other identity online?

    I saw in the Chronicle of Higher Ed something about the Diaspora project. I’m not going to say at this early stage that that specific project is the one that will move us into the post-Facebook era, but I think between that project, the recent Wired call for something new, and various privacy issues that are finally getting some traction, I think the time has come for Something to push online social networking in a new direction.

  9. That was a fine lot of lawyerese bullshit.

    “connections (again, if people choose to make them)”

    Choose to use connections? How is it even possible to use FB and not connect with anyone or anything?

  10. “Clearly, we need to rethink the tempo of change and how we communicate it. Trust me.”

    What a weasel. Only the “tempo” and the PR need change. Just like Hitler should have taken over countries more gradually, and communicated his plan for the Jews with more tact.


  11. Anon #5 – you are missing a BIG point.

    Info that other companies have is not easily accessible by search in Facebook, or by creating an “app” that can access nearly everything Facebook knows about you. It’s opened up to a whole new level of hackers and snoops.

  12. “But, really, our fate is in the hands of our users. We’re held accountable by the people who use our service. When they disagree with our decisions, they let us know. Our track record of responding to those concerns is pretty good.”

    or, more accurately, the exact opposite of what you just said.

    fuck these clowns.

  13. It would be a shame if the Schrage and other Facebook execs had all their personal information posted as FB profiles, along with a bit of randomly generated harmful information representing the sort of data decay and sloppy handling that gets one dunned for bills that don’t exist, thrown in jail for having the same name as a meth cooker or fired because the boss saw it.

    Just sayin’

  14. “Everything is opt-in on Facebook.”
    Really ? Then why did I, who rarely goes to Facebook, have to *opt out* of the new “Share all your connections, and link you with random things like Office Online” ?

  15. I don’t see it mentioned yet that this, to me, appears to be an article that was, how do they say it? “Placed” by a PR company (I can’t say for sure, but how else to explain the true lametasticness of this article?).

    The fact that publications are not legally required to disclose when an article has been bought by a PR company is enough to take ANY article, especially by an otherwise reputable publication such as the NYT, with a big grain of salt.

    Whether or not this article was bought, shame on you NYT.

  16. A completely condescending PR-flack reply. If the Times wishes to query as to Facebook’s awareness and response to the real implications of their actions and anger some of us are having, I might suggest the assign a reporter, instead of just running (rather lazily, no?) a series of mostly-similar reader-submitted questions, which allow no opportunity for real probing or follow up, and seem designed set up a lackey to give his customer-service lingo responses over and again.

    “Trust me”? Spare me.

  17. Dear Facebook,

    You began as a great site that allowed me to connect with my friends and family across the world. You were concerned about the privacy of your users and made it our choice how much information we wished to share with the world. Most importantly, you respected our decisions.

    But now I feel like I don’t even know you anymore…

    I am increasingly concerned by your lack of consideration for my privacy. I realize that it is your Facebook and you can do whatever you like with it. However, if you continue to make all of my user information public, continue to share it with 3rd parties against my wishes, or continue to make it difficult or impossible for me to control the privacy settings on my account, then I will have no choice but to do something about it. And there is only one thing I can do:

    Unless there are significant changes to the way that you treat your users by June 15, 2010, I will be deleting my account.

  18. I just love Elliot’s position on targeted ads: “We like them. You should, too.”


  19. FTA: “Everything is opt-in on Facebook. Participating in the service is a choice.”

    I chose to delete my Facebook account.

  20. For all of those that think deleting your FB account will stop the selling of your personal information, you are sadly wrong. Even after deletion, FB STORES all your data and continues to sell it. Sorry. I was about to do the same thing until I realized that wouldn’t stop them from using my personal data. The best advise is to limit personal info as much as possible and list your “interests” in the most mundane way possible.

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