It feels like there’s always something happening with Facebook. And, if I’m being honest, it almost always seems like it has to do with security. Today’s news is no different. What we are learning is that Facebook’s outgoing security chief, Alex Stamos, sent out a pretty incredible internal memo just days after the Cambridge Analytica scandal became headline news. While this might seem like standard practice, the memo was not good for Facebook, and essentially it urged the company to “intentionally not collect data where possible, and to keep it only as long as we are using it to serve people”. If I could insert a clapping emoji here, I would. Yes! Thank you, Alex Stamos, for saying what Facebook should have been saying all along. Why wasn’t this memo heeded?
The memo was titled “A Difficult Week”, and was dated March 23. In it Stamos writes:
“We need to listen to people (including internally) when they tell us a feature is creepy or point out a negative impact we are having in the world. We need to deprioritize short-term growth and revenue and to explain to Wall Street why that is ok. We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues. And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”
I’m kind of floored by this. Not necessarily because someone else feels the same way that I do about Facebook, but because it’s coming from an internal staff member. A high-level staff member, at that. I also find it extremely interesting that he points out the fact that some people have told them that some of their features are creepy. Creepy is his word. When you think about it, though, they kind of are. And now that we know what is being done with the data, it makes it even more creepy. It’s like Facebook is your stalker. Instead of joking that you are a Facebook stalker, Facebook has now become the stalker.
What is also interesting is that Stamos puts himself in the line of fire with this one. He indicates that he deserves “as much blame (or more) as any other exec at the company”. But does he? I mean, yes, he’s the head of security, so sure he is responsible. But I guarantee you that nothing gets approved without Mark Zuckerberg’s approval.
In the memo, Stamos urges Facebook to focus on “the hard things we have to do to win back the world’s trust”. Again, this is something that I’ve been saying Facebook needs to do for months. And yet, we’re still finding out that they’re leaking data to other companies, much in the same way that they have been with Cambridge Analytica. So my question is – what gives Facebook? Stamos also notes that this was the biggest privacy scandal that they had experienced in its 14 years of operations. Well, that’s no surprise at this point. Of course, it is. But the question for the future is – will it be the only one?