Hoodie Hazard: Facebook’s Zuckerberg fights the sweat

June 3, 2010

The man controls the world’s largest virtual network with half a billion members and counting. He regularly rubs shoulders with tech industry glitterati and billionaires. His curly-haired mug has graced scores of magazines. But all it took was a few questions about accusations of privacy violations to get twentysomething Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hot under the collar.

Grilled onstage at the annual All Things Digital conference — an annual confab of A-list tech chieftains — Zuckerberg began visibly perspiring, to the point that All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher had to ask if he was alright. Zuckerberg gamely took off his hoodie, only to reveal Facebook’s mission emblazoned on the inside by way of a mystical-looking symbol.

FACEBOOK/“Oh my God, it’s like a secret cult”, Swisher remarked.

Facebook has indeed achieved something of a cult status, expanding in leaps and bounds across the planet on the strength of a simple mission statement to connect people. But now, those same people are beginning to realize that being on Facebook might be an invitation to prying eyes. In the past year, the world’s largest social network has come under fire, first for letting less-tech-savvy users to inadvertently reveal too much private information, then for putting in place such a convulted web of privacy safeguards that few but the most Web-adroit can navigate them with any surety.

“The big feedback that we got was that the privacy settings had become too complex. Over the years we’d just accumulated many, many settings,” Zuckerberg said. “I started building thie when I was around 19 years old and along the way a lot of stuff changed. We went from building a service in a dorm room to running a service that 500 million people use.”

But Zuckerberg also defended himself — saying justifiable efforts at personalizing users’ experience and profiles might have led to some of the backlash — automatically assigning settings, for instance, on what is viewable to all and what is viewable only to some.

“My prediction would be, a few years from now, is that we’ll all look back and wonder why these services weren’t personalized. I think the world is moving in this direction.”

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