“I want to talk about the ugly,” said Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in a memo dated June 18, 2016. The explosive memo, leaked this week by an insider, goes on to defend and justify Facebook’s “questionable contact importing practices” and “All of the work we do to bring more communication in”. Bosworth justified the use of questionable practices, citing the company’s core purpose to connect people as the reason. “Anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good,” the memo read. The Vice President expressed in the memo that these connections may lead to good, including someone finding love or the prevention of a suicide, but also points out the potential bad. “Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools,” he wrote.
After BuzzFeed obtained and published the scandalous memo earlier this week, Bosworth made this statement: “I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it.” He also said that he “cares deeply how our product affects people and I take very personally the responsibility I have to make that impact positive”.
And of course, Mark Zuckerberg said that he and others at Facebook disagreed strongly with the memo and that it was just another of Bosworth’s provocative statements.
With Facebook in hot water for their dubious data collection practices the release of this internal memo certainly offers evidence that may support recent allegations. Somewhere along the line at least one executive member of the Facebook team believed that the prioritization of growth surpasses any regard for integrity. “Pushing the envelope on growth” is how the company got where it is, Bosworth claimed. Has Facebook pushed the envelope to the point of no return?
Certainly, Facebook is left holding the lion’s share of responsibility for questionable internal decisions and practices. However, I am personally willing to accept my share of the responsibility. Ultimately, we are the ones who provide this information to the company or companies in question. Most of us are willing to download apps and allow services to collect information about us, and we don’t think twice about it. There are privacy settings and choices available to us that can limit the type and amount of data that any company can collect from us. We’re quick to check the box to approve data collection for a “better online experience”, but most of us do not take the time to understand what that really means.
There’s no excuse for the behavior that prompted the recent Facebook scandal, but it has given all of us a much-needed nudge to take responsibility for our own online footprint. If your personal privacy, and that of the people in your contact list, is important to you how much effort is it worth to protect it?