WSJ’s Gerry Baker ‘Facebook’s fundamental business model is about selling people’s information’

As seen on Fox Business: Wall Street Journal Editor-at-Large Gerry Baker on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of the company.

The massive trove of user data collected by Facebook Opens a New Window., a practice that has come under intense federal scrutiny in the past year, is used to protect the integrity and safety of the platform but is not sold to outside advertisers, CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued in a new opinion piece.


Facebook has been under siege from regulators, Congress and the public after it was uncovered that Cambridge Analytica — a British political consulting firm hired by President Trump’s campaign in 2016 — accessed the private information of millions of Facebook users. The platform has also faced pressure over its role in advancing misinformation campaigns Opens a New Window.backed by entities linked to the Russian government in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The CEO of Facebook decided to respond in an op-ed written in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Here is some excerpts as seen on Business Insider.

Zuckerberg says he wants to correct some misunderstandings

The column dismisses what Zuckerberg says are numerous misunderstandings about how Facebook operates. “We don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do,” he wrote. Facebook also doesn’t deliberately share so-called clickbait (“it’s not what people want”) or deliberately leave harmful content up to drive up engagement (“advertisers don’t want their brands anywhere near it”), the chief executive wrote.


The column, however, is also a little coy about the scale of user data that Facebook collects — acknowledging only that the company collects “some information for ads.”


“Finally, there’s the important question of whether the advertising model encourages companies like ours to use and store more information than we otherwise would,” Zuckerberg wrote.


“There’s no question that we collect some information for ads — but that information is generally important for security and operating our services as well. For example, companies often put code in their apps and websites so when a person checks out an item, they later send a reminder to complete the purchase. But this type of signal can also be important for detecting fraud or fake accounts.”


There’s little new in the CEO’s column — Facebook has cautiously embraced the idea of some regulation (provided it’s in its interests) for months, and Zuckerberg’s declarations that Facebook doesn’t sell user data are a regular refrain for anyone who followed his congressional testimonies in 2018.


But coming after months of bruising headlines about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and broader data privacy concerns, and a languishing stock price, it suggests Facebook is eager to reassure America’s decision makers that the fundamental utility of Facebook remains strong.


“It’s important to get this right, because there are clear benefits to this business model,” Zuckerberg wrote in a section extolling the virtues of his social network. “Billions of people get a free service to stay connected to those they care about and to express themselves. And small businesses — which create most of the jobs and economic growth around the world — get access to tools that help them thrive. There are more than 90 million small businesses on Facebook, and they make up a large part of our business. Most couldn’t afford to buy TV ads or billboards, but now they have access to tools that only big companies could use before. In a global survey, half the businesses on Facebook say they’ve hired more people since they joined. They’re using our services to create millions of jobs.”




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