Zuckerberg: Facebook Errs on the Side of Openness

Users are asking Facebook for more control over their data, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the Web 2.0 Summit today, but the company leans toward making things more open. “Mediating that tension is challenging,” he said.

Federated Media Publishing founder John Battelle, who co-interviewed Zuckerberg with O’Reilly Media CEO Tim O’Reilly, introduced the issue by asking Zuckerberg whether Facebook’s core philosophy is: “Facebook doesn’t ask for permission. It just asks for forgiveness.” Zuckerberg said company staffers debate the issues of who should have control over which pieces of data “every day.” Because Facebook is on the forefront of these issues, and because it’s venturing into new areas, “The correct answer isn’t completely obvious,” he said. And philosophically, the company tends to “err on the side of openness.”

Evidence of that tendency has surfaced in the various privacy-related snafus the company has blundered into in the past few years, including the Beacon product that shared users’ purchases with their friends, and the change in privacy settings which seemed to push users toward revealing more of their data.

But Zuckerberg, who famously said “privacy is dead” at the beginning of this year, told Battelle and O’Reilly that he thinks the same people who are asking for more control today are going to become comfortable with letting go of it tomorrow. “My guess would be that over the next few years… the data portability and openness side of this, it will become a lot more obvious about why this is valuable
and the great things that can be created from this.”

Zuckerberg got support from O’Reilly. “The approach you’re taking is right,” O’Reilly said. “You have to push the boundaries and figure out where they are. If we set rules too early, we won’t figure it out. We’re going to stay in the past.EBB