Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally said that he's "responsible" for what happens at the company, including the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. A data company got hold of detailed information on 50 million Facebook users and used it to psychologically manipulate people during the 2016 election. And COO Sheryl Sandburg? She said, "I deeply regret that we didn't do enough to deal with it."
The no-sorry-or-apology statements, days after the news broke, is an attempt to corral a runaway scandal that has already trimmed tens of billions from the company's value. That has former insiders turning against the company, with WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton urging people to #deletefacebook. That has stunned customers, who look at their privacy settings in shock when they realize how many companies have access to their data.
This is way too little, far too late, with a textbook not-sorry try to get out of hot water by not addressing the elephant sitting on everyone's keyboard.
The issue isn't Cambridge Analytica. It's Facebook's repeated stumbling over personal privacy as it reaches to make yet another dollar off its users.
Sure, all companies need to make money, and getting bigger can be great. But you still need to operate with integrity. Not Facebook's strong suit as time and again over the years it has overstepped boundaries and essentially said "oops."
But even as Sandberg writes that "[y]our trust is at the core of our service" and Zuckerberg thanks "all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together," they're showing how out of touch they've become.
Who trusts Facebook? The people now deleting their accounts? And who believes in the company's "mission"? Which seems more about making a buck off people's own communities than helping to create one.
Focusing on Cambridge Analytica is a distraction. That's nothing but the last straw. Facebook has been happy to see companies running these data slurping fake social quizzes for years. Facebook prowls through all your posts and even private messages. They say the private message content isn't used to target ads.
Who's not to trust, right?
Maybe this is the self-deception of Silicon Valley, the grand words of missions and world change and all the other convoluted claptrap that so many in tech indulge in. But the would-be masters of the world need to declutter their thinking.
Business basics are always in call. You provide a product or service that people want. They pay you, either in money or by watching ads. And you respect customers, because most will eventually sniff out a phony. You know, like someone who keeps saying one thing and doing another.
Facebook's business isn't going to disappear immediately. People want to keep in touch with others, and there isn't another sufficiently popular social network that would provide similar types of experiences.
But you can bet that many of Facebook's customers are keeping an eye out for a possible replacement if it comes along. Anyone at Facebook who thinks consumers trust the company should down a cup of strong coffee and wake up.