Facebook Employees Are Outraged About -- Wait For It -- Their Own Online Privacy

The company's reaction to a leaked internal memo shows a shocking lack of self-awareness.

A years-old, highly revealing bit of sensitive Facebook data ― one that could do damage in the wrong hands ― has made it to the open internet. Judging by the howls from Facebook employees, including Mark Zuckerberg, it seems the company really does care about the improper handling of private information — but only when it’s their own.

No, we aren’t talking about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook failed to secure the personal data of 50 million users, then looked the other way for two years while the data was illegally used to profile and target voters. This concerns an internal Facebook memo, authored by Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in 2016, that an anonymous source leaked to BuzzFeed on Thursday.

The leaked memo is itself notable news. Buzzfeed describes it as an attempt to justify some of the company’s more questionable data collection practices and the lengths it will go to grow the network, even if the social network were used to bully someone to death or help plan a terrorist attack.

Bosworth disavowed the controversial memo after it went public Thursday. Then, in the ultimate act of irony for a company whose core premise is encouraging people to publicly share information they’d often be better advised to keep private, he deleted the original post.

Here’s a glimpse at how some at the company are reacting to the leak, an insight we have thanks to internal Facebook posts on the matter obtained by The Verge.

Many lashed out at whoever leaked the memo to BuzzFeed, portraying the privacy breach as “sabotage” that’s indicative of a “god complex:”

“Leakers, please resign instead of sabotaging the company,” reads one post. Another adds, “How fucking terrible that some irresponsible jerk decided he or she had some god complex that jeopardizes our inner culture and something that makes Facebook great?”

Another suggested the company should start screening potential hires for traits like morality and loyalty instead of just intelligence:

“This is so disappointing, wonder if there is a way to hire for integrity. We are probably focusing on the intelligence part and getting smart people here who lack a moral compass and loyalty.”

In an interesting line given Facebook’s attempts to play down the influence of nefarious government actors on the platform during the 2016 election, at least a couple employees went ahead and blamed government spies for the leak:

“Keep in mind that leakers could be intentionally placed bad actors, not just employees making a one-off bad decision,” reads another comment.

Another user added, “Imagine that some percentage of leakers are spies for governments. A call to morals or problems of performance would be irrelevant in this case, because dissolution is the intent of those actors. If that’s our threat — and maybe it is, given the current political situation? — then is it even possible to build a system that defaults to open, but that is able to resist these bad actors (or do we need to redesign the system?)”

And in defense of Facebook, at least a couple noted the parallels between its own internal struggle and that of its users at large:

“Can we channel our outrage over the mishandling of our information into an empathy for our users’ situation? Can the deletion of a post help us better understand #deletefacebook? How we encourage ourselves to remain open while acknowledging a world that doesn’t always respect the audience and intention fo that information might just be the key to it all. Maybe we should be dogfooding that?”

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