Damning Zuckerberg IMs confirmed

A series of "embarrassing and damaging" IMs from Mark Zuckerberg have been confirmed as real by The New Yorker, and by the Facebook founder himself. At issue is an exchange leaked to Silicon Alley Insider and published this past March, in which Zuckerberg explains to a friend that his control of Facebook affords him access to any personal information he might care to access on any Harvard student:

ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how'd you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don't know why
ZUCK: they "trust me"
ZUCK: dumb fucks

Then, there's this gem:

FRIEND: so have you decided what you are going to do about the websites?
ZUCK: yea i'm going to fuck them
ZUCK: probably in the year
ZUCK: *ear

Allow me to be the first: Christ, what an asshole. In fairness, yes, these IMs date from 2004, and Zuckerberg's colleagues are quoted as forgiving him for youthful indiscretion. I'm sure all of us have sent IMs that would be "damning and embarassing," I know I have—but then, I'm not sitting on hundreds of thousands of people's personal data and making jokes about violating their privacy.

How much does the core of a person's sense of ethics really change over, say, five or six years? Zuckerberg's legal advisors would have us believe that he is a repentant, changed man, and that the persona reflected in these exchanges has long since been outgrown. As a Facebook user, I'd like to believe them, but I'm not so sure. All of this from someone whose business cards reportedly once read, "I'm CEO…bitch!"

The New Yorker article is here: The Face of Facebook, by Jose Antonio Vargas. A related item at The Business Insider. And The Social Network, better known as "that Sorkin/Fincher Facebook film," opens in American theaters on October 1.

(Image courtesy The New Yorker)