Zuckerberg’s evasions about FB’s evolving privacy policies raise new questions about the company’s intentions
Some of the tech-world buzz today is about Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s astonishingly poor showing onstage at this week’s Wall Street Journal conference, All Things Digital. Make no mistake: His fumbling, rapid-fire, sweat-drenched appearance was probably the most cringe-inducing at the D gathering since Jerry Yang and Sue Decker, then CEO and president of Yahoo, spent many minutes several years agofailing to explain what business Yahoo was in.
On Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg repeatedly ducked some fairly simple questions about Facebook and its notoriously evolving privacy policies — rules and default settings that have led many, including me, to mistrust the company and its intentions. In fact, his fast-talk evasions deepened my sense of unease.
What attracted much of the notice, especially from media covering the event, was his extreme perspiration, which more than a few commentators called Nixonian. (This is a reference to a TV debate Richard Nixon held with John F. Kennedy in 1960 when they were running for president; Nixon’s sweaty, shifty appearance in the first-ever event of its kind is widely seen as one of the reasons he lost the election.)
The Nixon comparison is, of course, a big stretch — and it distracts from the much more serious issues.
For one thing, Zuckerberg’s panic attack — which is the most charitable explanation I can come up with — raised more than a few questions about his fitness as CEO of one of the biggest companies on the Web and, increasingly, one of the most important companies on the planet.