Facebook is a service that promotes the sharing of personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, location data and photos. Just don’t ask the company’s founder to do the same.
In a congressional hearing Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if he would disclose to the public which hotel he was currently staying at in Washington, D.C. Unsurprisingly, Zuckerberg declined to do so.
Facebook admitted Thursday to deleting old messages sent by Zuckerberg, even though most Facebook users are currently unable to do the same.
The social media site has come under fire in recent weeks for its mishandling of user data. The whistleblowing at Cambridge Analytica — a political data-mining firm that accessed the private information of millions of Facebook users to help target advertisements in support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election — has brought to the surface many of the poor privacy practices the social network has engaged in over the years.
For example, Facebook has collected texts and call records from its Android users. The company has also admitted to scanning personal messages sent via Facebook — and the latest news indicates Cambridge Analytica may have had access to these messages as well, via a read mailbox permission used by quiz app This Is Your Digital Life
In 2010, Zuckerberg said privacy was simply no longer a social norm. Yet experts point out that not everyone needs to know everything about your life. Those who say they have “nothing to hide” often forget about the information they hide all the time.
“It’s important to acknowledge that privacy isn’t about hiding — it’s about having and exercising more agency over who sees our personal information,” Rebecca Ricks, a Mozilla fellow and technologist, said in a previous email interview with Mic. “So much of our social, networked lives is contextual. There are conversations I have with my friends that I wouldn’t want my family to see. There is information I give my bank that I wouldn’t want a hacker to see.”
In the case of Tuesday’s congressional hearing, Zuckerberg doesn’t want the world to know where he stays while traveling.
Facebook’s obsession with user openness juxtaposed against Zuckerberg’s (understandable) personal choice to stay private is glaring — especially when the CEO does things like leave his prepared notes open on the table for reporters to photograph. Privacy is no longer a social norm.
April 11, 2018, 8:45 a.m. ET: This story has been updated