One of Mark Zuckerberg’s earliest allies in Silicon Valley says the Facebook CEO’s recent privacy manifesto is little more than a PR stunt that won’t solve the company’s most serious problems.
Speaking at SXSW, Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor and and onetime advisor to Zuckerberg, called the CEO’s recent promise to rebuild Facebook as a “privacy-focused” platform “a very effective public relations move that once again is deflecting us away from the core problem.”
McNamee, who once counseled Zuckerberg not to sell Facebook to Yahoo, and to hire Sheryl Sandberg as COO, has become a vocal critic of the social network in recent years. (He’s currently promoting his book, Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, in which he says Zuckerberg and Sandberg ignored his warnings about Russian activity on Facebook in 2016.)
Now, McNamee says Zuckerberg’s supposed commitment to encryption and privacy is much more self-interested than he has let on.
“I’m a big believer in end-to-end encryption, but I think we all need to understand that encrypting your messages, and encrypting your posts addresses about one 1 percent of the problem,” he said.
“It has a convenient byproduct, which makes me think there must be something bad coming, maybe it’s the FTC… maybe it’s something else. But they’re doing something that they would do anyway. If you end-to-end encrypt, your moderation problem goes away. So from Facebook’s point of view, what they’re trying to do is get credit for something like it’s noble but doesn’t address the problem.”
The biggest problem, according to McNamee, is that Facebook’s business model relies on tracking an enormous amount of data about what its users do when they aren’t even on Facebook.
At the end of he day, the thing that really worries me, and this so-called manifesto doesn’t touch that, is that the value, and the problems, really are associated with metadata and data collecting outside of Facebook, neither of which are covered by this manifesto.
Zuck made very clear… that they’re not getting out of the tracking business. My problem with Facebook is not whether it’s end-to end-encrypted… it’s what are they doing with the tracking, what are they doing to invade my private spaces. I don’t want then buying my credit card history, I do not want them doing business with health and wellness apps, I do not want them buying my location data from my cellular carrier, I do not want them tracking me all around the web.
McNamee also expressed support for Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. His appearance at SXSW comes just one day after Warren took the stage in Austin to discuss her plan for dismantling large tech companies she says are making it more difficult for smaller companies to innovate.
The Facebook investor, who noted that he still holds stock in the company, did have some positive words for the social network. He said if Zuckerberg follows though on his promise to not have data centers in authoritarian countries it would be a “righteous” move, and that he doesn’t think Zuckerberg or Sandberg should step away from Facebook.
“I don’t think this is about the people, and I believe that this is about the business model. Mark and Sheryl at Facebook have the moral authority to change the business model. They can do 100 times as much good by reforming their companies than they could possibly do with a foundation.”