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Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Tries To Move Company Forward After Data Scandal

May 1, 2018
Originally published on May 3, 2018 2:29 pm
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Once a year, Facebook holds a splashy conference for developers called Facebook F8. The social media giant rolls out its new features and generally promotes goodwill among its business partners. This year, there's more at stake. Today was the first time Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke directly to developers who are at the heart of a controversy over Facebook's data sharing practices. NPR's Laura Sydell is at the F8 conference. Hey there, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello.

CORNISH: So you heard this speech Mark Zuckerberg gave today. What was the tone?

SYDELL: Well, I would say that overall, he was trying to balance being optimistic with apologizing for some of the things that have happened. You know, Zuckerberg came up on stage, and the first thing he addressed was what happened over the past few months, which was that an app developer gave information of some 87 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that was working with the Trump campaign. He said they've already changed their privacy policies, and he said that what happened would never happen today. That said, they're still making sure no apps are giving anything away. And he said no one should expect perfection. Here he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK ZUCKERBERG: Now, there's no guarantee that we get this right. This is hard stuff. We will make mistakes. And they will have consequences, and we will need to fix them. But what I can guarantee is that if we don't work on this, the world isn't moving in this direction by itself.

SYDELL: And what he means there is that no one else out there is going to connect the world the way Facebook can. So he's trying to keep this balance between getting everybody excited about the mission of building Facebook and bringing the world together, which is what he always talks about.

CORNISH: How did developers respond?

SYDELL: You know, I spoke with a few of them, and some of them have actually lost customers since the whole privacy scandal began. One developer, Pete Haas, who helps small businesses on Facebook so that they can reach the right advertisers said many of them have pulled back, and they have a kind of wait-and-see feeling about the whole thing. He's concerned that if there are more controls on privacy, it's going to make it harder to target the users he thinks might buy their products.

PETE HAAS: We use Facebook as the identity provider of the Internet and so that when you log in with Facebook, you can just do that easily. And when that happens, you request certain features. I just hope that they don't restrict those more.

SYDELL: And what he means here is that Facebook might tighten its privacy controls even more and make it easier for people to opt out and therefore harder for them to target the exact customers they want to target.

CORNISH: In the meantime, we know Facebook usually rolls out new features at this conference. Did they do that today?

SYDELL: Yeah, and I would say the biggest thing is that they're getting in to the dating business. If I were match.com or other dating sites, I would be worried. What they're doing is they're setting up kind of a separate area. It's separate from regular Facebook where you can communicate. If you're a single person, you can put up your profile. Your other friends don't have to see it. If someone single is going to an event near you, you'll be able to chat with them first, and maybe you want to meet up.

Now, here's the thing that's interesting - is Facebook really has the potential to connect people who are really going to share interests 'cause they have all this personal data on you. They haven't said how much of it they're going to use. But of course it's ironic that right now after they've had this huge privacy scandal, they now are putting themself out there as a dating site. And as such, they'll be better at it the more of your personal data that they actually have.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Laura Sydell. Laura, thank you.

SYDELL: You are quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.