Pushing The Idea That Share is Good – Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg

Posted on November 26, 2011

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, was interviewed back in January 2011 by the Economist about the future of privacy.


But hold, it was all about the importance of sharing. But let’s back up.  Sandberg said during the interview that the head of Google gave her the best advice she had ever got:  Go where there’s growth.  That is where the greatest opportunities will lie.

Sandberg says that she subscribes to the CEO and founder Zuckerman’s principle that information will double each year based on sharing on social websites.  People will expand beyond sharing photos just with the family but she doesn’t follow through with why this kind of sharing beyond family will produce any positive effect on valuable information.

Her primary example of sharing of course is the story of the young girl who sacrificed her birthday money for the starving in Africa and who set up a web page to collect money from others.  The little girl died and the page went viral.  It has now raised millions.  But this is sharing with a plan to be public.

She made the point that sharing i.e. privacy can be controlled.  Herein lies the weak spots in her argument that social networks allow one to have privacy.

  • To ensure an individual’s privacy, he/she must adjust controls in their profiles.
  • To ensure privacy, he/she must be aware that the default is not to privacy but to the individual’s awareness of controls that  need to be modified to ensure it.
  • To ensure privacy, he/she must be able to technically manoeuver the area where modifications to the profile are made to control sharing.
  • To ensure the privacy of those to whom  you are linked means further changes in the default profile items.  This means there is the burden of protecting the privacy of others that is foisted upon the user of a social network site.
  • Information retention policies vary from site to site.
  • There is a vanity component in social website that encourages us to expose self-hood.
  • In a capitalist society that has lost it’s ability to manufacture product, citizens are encouraged to purchase product.  This becomes the engine of growth.  At Facebook, shared information is the engine of growth and that is why that empire is built upon encouraging people to share.

In dealing with social networks,one way to assess their arguments relating to privacy is to think about what the site does not do as well as what it does do.  In the end, Facebook has determined that the default is to sharing and the only way to amend that would be to have the profile elements default to no sharing.

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