Thursday, January 31, 2019

Commerce by Any Means?

Sheryl Sandberg has been a darling of the evangelical community, speaking at several Christian leadership conferences. She has a compelling story regarding grief and ‘leaning in’. However, as COO of Facebook, you wonder why she’s a darling in spite of the multiple scandals related to data privacy. What are her values? How true are the public statements being made about Facebook ‘doing better’ at protecting users’ privacy when it’s her responsibility to implement policies and policy changes?

Wired noted 21 scandals in 2018 alone. It wasn’t just Cambridge Analytica at the heart of them. or the 2018 revelation of stuff happening in 2015 about a bikini photo app. And Facebook continued to sell data long after they promised to change. The most recent scandal is the transmogrification of Onavo, who paid users—many underage—to bump up usage and access their phones’ data in order to bypass Apple’s prohibition of putting the app on their App Store.

How much is Sandberg responsible? An early investor, friend of Zuckerberg and former board member, Roger McNamee put her right in the midst of everything positive and negative about Facebook for a Time cover story. So it seems rightly so that Sandberg is tarnished. In fact, the Buzzfeed article by Anne Helen Petersen says this:
The reality of Silicon Valley is that it’s commerce by any means necessary. And the reality of Sandberg is that she’s excellent at it.
So, it seems that the value of making money is more important than any other ethical considerations, including promise keeping. If an organization’s goal is to increase revenue and (positive) notoriety, they could use Facebook’s standards...and then end up as a paraphrase of the Babylon Bee’s satirical headline—“Majority of Evangelicals Would Support Satan If He Would Run as a Republican Candidate”—“Majority of Evangelicals Would Jettison the 10 Commandments If They Could Get More Donations to Their Church”.

A recent Intelligence Squared debate—“Has Silicon Valley Lost Its Soul?”—during the debate seemed to imply that Silicon Valley never had a moral soul. From the beginning, tech startup founders were always trying to make money. Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sandberg are no different.

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