A Facebook leaked memo has landed the company in hot water once again, as it suggests that the company values business over user safety.
A Facebook leaked memo from an executive in the company was published by BuzzFeed on Thursday. The internal memo, dating from June 2016, was written by Andrew “Boz” Bosworth who is currently in charge of the company’s hardware division. The Facebook leaked memo stated that Bosworth wanted to “talk about the ugly” regarding the company’s work – and it appears from the content within that the content was quite ugly indeed.
An excerpt from the memo reads “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.”
After the Facebook leaked memo came to light, Bosworth took to Twitter in an effort to defend himself. “I don’t agree with the post today and I didn’t agree with it even when I wrote it,” he tweeted. “The purpose of this post, like many others I have written internally, was to bring to the surface issues I felt deserved more discussion with the broader company.”
Whether Bosworth believed with the content he discussed in the Facebook leaked memo is up for debate, but it’s clear that the words were written for a reason. Whether Bosworth was truly praising the mission of the company to connect people or if he was writing it as a criticism of the company’s over-zealous practices regarding keeping people together at all costs, it’s clear that Facebook may have overstepped some boundaries when it comes to protecting data.
The Facebook leaked memo comes at a particularly rough time for the company, due to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal where it was revealed that a company had used data gleaned from Facebook in order to allegedly sway the results of the United States presidential election. While many were aware that Facebook used their data in order to make profit, very few recognized the extent to which their activity was analyzed and used in an effort to sway public opinion on a number of important issues. The company has lost a huge amount of value in a short amount of time due to investors becoming spooked at the public outrage and mass exodus from the service, and this internal memo will no doubt add more fuel to the fire.
Later on in the post, Bosworth uses some pretty damning language when discussing the negative effects of connecting people around the world, and seems to imply that connecting people above all else justifies the use of the platform for potentially nefarious purposes.
“Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies,” he says. “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.”
While the Facebook leaked memo is certainly concerning and contains some ugly news as to how the company seems to operate, it also seems to fly in the face of Facebook’s modus operandi, with the company generally taking efforts to move forward quickly and prioritize profit and expansion without seeming to look at the implications. While Bosworth’s statements in the internal memo could potentially be looked at as a tacit endorsement of the sort of activity that could even potentially cost lives, it also brings to light some of the implications of the practices that the company may have been involved in. If this is truly his train of thought, it’s certainly possible that Bosworth wrote the Facebook leaked memo in an effort to draw attention to the incredible damage that a platform with such unrestrained reach could cause in the hands of people who would use data for unsavory purposes.
Whether Bosworth and his memo were a battle cry to continue as planned and prioritize connections above all else or an exaggeration to center the company in light of some of the privacy issues that were starting to crop up isn’t immediately clear from the memo. Bosworth certainly seems to insist that he never agreed with what he wrote, but given the blatant disregard the company seems to have for data and how it’s used, it’s not currently clear what his motive was with the Facebook leaked memo.
Facebook is currently in damage control mode, and may be in some legal trouble as well regarding the way they allegedly mishandled data. This Facebook leaked memo is unfortunately timed for the success of the company, but it once again calls attention to the fact that any information we put online can be harvested and used to turn a profit.