Top Facebook Executive Defended Data Collection In 2016 Memo, Warned That Facebook Could Get People Killed

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BuzzFeed: On June 18, 2016, one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted lieutenants circulated an extraordinary memo weighing the costs of the company’s relentless quest for growth. “We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it,” VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote. “So we connect more people,” he wrote in another section of the memo. “That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs someone a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.” The explosive internal memo is titled “The Ugly,” and has not been previously circulated outside the Silicon Valley social media giant.

The Bosworth memo reveals the extent to which Facebook’s leadership understood the physical and social risks the platform’s products carried — even as the company downplayed those risks in public. It suggests that senior executives had deep qualms about conduct that they are now seeking to defend. And as the company reels amid a scandal over improper outside data collection on its users, the memo shows that one senior executive — one of Zuckerberg’s longest-serving deputies — prioritized all-encompassing growth over all else, a view that has led to questionable data collection and manipulative treatment of its users.

The full memo is embedded in BuzzFeed’s report. In response to the story, Zuckerberg wrote in a statement: “Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We’ve never believed the ends justify the means. We recognize that connecting people isn’t enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year.”