Buffeted by privacy snafus and the lingering fallout from a damning, years-old instant messaging thread, Facebook chief exec Mark Zuckerberg switched into full-on damage control Monday, confessing that the sprawling social network had "missed the mark" when it comes to its complex privacy controls — and pledging to do better.
In an open letter published Monday in the Washington Post (whose chairman, Donald E. Graham, just so happens to sit on Facebook's board of directors), Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook has been "growing quickly" and admitted that "sometimes we move too fast."
"Many of you thought our controls were too complex," Zuckerberg's letter reads. "Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls" — uh, you can say that again — "but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark."
Zuckerberg promised, in "coming weeks," privacy controls that will be "much simpler to use" — including an "easy way to turn off all third-party services" that can access your account.
But Zuckerberg wasn't just announcing new privacy features in Monday's open letter; he was also clearly trying to bridge a growing trust gap between Facebook and its increasingly suspicious users, especially in light of reports last week that Facebook (among other social networks) had been passing along user name and IDs to advertisers (including Google's DoubleClick and Yahoo!'s own Right Media) without users' consent. Those privacy loopholes have since been plugged, say Facebook, MySpace and other social networks.
But Zuckerberg is also being dogged by an embarrassing IM thread from when he was a 19-year-old Harvard student, bragging that he'd gathered personal information from thousands of users for the nascent TheFacebook.com. "People just submitted it," Zuckerberg messaged, "I don't know why. They 'trust me.' Dumb [expletive]." (This comes via Silicon Alley Insider.)