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Oct. 2 2009 - 1:26 pm | 278 views | 1 recommendation | 1 comment

How much privacy does the Facebook executive team have?

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Image by magerleagues via Flickr

Update: In December 2009, Facebook changed its privacy settings, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg became a whole lot less private.

Facebook broke the 300 million users mark last month; it has expressed hopes to dominate the Internet and it appears to be doing just that.

Given the amount of personal data we upload to the site, Facebook often runs into privacy issues. The company has our photos, our e-mail addresses, our birthdates, and lists of our friends. Even if we haven’t publicly revealed it, Facebook can gauge our political and sexual orientation.

If Facebook were the government, we’d be flipping out. Luckily for corporations in the U.S., we tend to trust .com’s with our info more so than we trust the .gov types.

Still Facebook occasionally manages to run afoul of privacy issues (e.g., its recently-deceased advertising project Beacon and how it uses our photos). When such things happen, Facebook usually responds by saying that it gives its users full control of their privacy settings. We can decide just how exposed we want our information to be.

This made me wonder about the privacy settings for the executive team behind Facebook. I went searching for their profiles. They’re a fairly private bunch. And to my great surprise, it appears that a few of them aren’t actually are hidden on Facebook.

Strangely, Facebook’s Executive Bios page doesn’t contain links to its executives’ Facebook profiles, so I had to go searching. Here’s a survey of the privacy settings for the members of the Facebook executive team. With the exception of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, you can add any of them as a friend. If they have a you can find their profile that is:

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO. You can see his photo, his networks (Facebook and Harvard alum), and a list of his 889 friends, but that’s it. You can’t add him as a friend, but you can send him a message. (Though he probably won’t respond; he didn’t to me, when I sent him an inquiry about his privacy settings a few months back). His low-friend count shocked me. It seems like even freshmen in college have four digits of friends these days.

Christopher Cox, VP of Product. Like “Zuck,” you can see his photo and networks (Facebook and Stanford alum), and send him a message. But he doesn’t want you looking at his friends.

David Ebersman, CFO. Same settings as the big man Zuck. Ebersman has fewer friends though.

– Lori Goler, VP of Human Resources and Recuiting. Also has same settings as the Zuck. She too has fewer friends than the big boss. Maybe that’s a requirement if you’re going to make your friend list public?

Jonathan Heiliger, VP of Technology. He’s very private. You can see his photo but that’s it. No messages and no list of his friends. The only information shown is his Network: “Facebook.”

Mike Murphy, VP of Global Sales. Pretty private: just a photo (though disguised by sunglasses), his networks (North Texas alum), and the ability to send him a message.

Chamath Palihapitiya, VP of Growth. Same settings as the Zuck, though Chamath’s friend count dwarfs his at over 2,000. Like Mike Murphy, Chamath’s photo features sunglasses… but not Chamath.

– Sheryl Sandberg, COO. You get her photo, her networks, and her friend lists. But you can’t send her a message.

Dan Rose, VP of Business Development and Monetization. Either he’s super-private or not on Facebook. No “Dan Rose” results come up in a people search. If he’s not on Facebook, that’s super weird. Shouldn’t you be a user of something you’re trying to monetize? Update (2:35 p.m.): Another journalist with mutual friends is able to confirm that Rose is on Facebook but with maxed-out settings so that he does not appear in search results. He can friend you, but you can’t search for or friend him.

Elliot Schrage, VP of Global Communications, Marketing and Public Policy. He’s not doing his communications work on Facebook. Like Rose, Schrage either has his privacy settings maxed out or is not on Facebook. There’s only one result for Elliot Schrage, but I know this kid is not him, since I met Schrage briefly when he was at Google and know him to be a bit older. Update (2:35 p.m.): Another journalist with mutual friends is able to confirm that Schrage is on Facebook but with maxed-out settings so that he does not appear in search results. He can friend you, but you can’t search for or friend him.

Mike Schroepfer, VP of Engineering. “Schrep” has the best profile photo of the bunch. It features a cartoon cowboy pickle. He’s willing to show you his friends, his networks, and will accept a message from you.

Ted Ullyot, VP and General Counsel. Ullyot’s pretty private, just showing his photo and network. His friend list doesn’t appear, though I do get to see that we have three friends in common. Ullyot might want to put a little bit more info out there. The primary result on a Facebook search for his name is the Facebook group Fire Ted Ullyot. Its 126 members don’t like Ullyot’s association with disgraced U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

So that’s the round-up. None of the team lets you see very much of their information. Given that they’re high-profile figures, that makes sense on some level. But at the same time, Facebook wants to be a place where people socialize and do business. Setting an example of revealing so little — not even their titles or work information — seems to undermine any attempt to be a LinkedIn type network.

On the other hand, they are setting a good example of how to maintain a high level of privacy on a social network.


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    About Me

    I am a writer, reporter, editor and blogger. I'm an editor at Above The Law, where I blog about lawyers, judges, law firms and the legal industry. Here at True/Slant, I write about our changing notions of privacy.

    If you have story ideas or tips, e-mail me at kashhill@trueslant.com. I've hung out in quite a few newsrooms over the last few years. Currently, I can be found in Breaking Media's Nolita office. In the past, I've been found in midtown Manhattan at The Week Magazine, in Hong Kong at the International Herald Tribune, and in D.C. at the National Press Foundation and the Washington Examiner.

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      While most of my writing occurs online at Above The Law and True/Slant, I do occasionally venture into the world of print.  These are some of the magazines and newspapers that I’ve written for:

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      While I’m usually a writer and reporter, I’m sometimes asked to play pundit. In November, the New York Times asked me to write a mini op-ed for its Room for Debate blog. In December, BBC radio asked me to talk about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook privacy settings for its Newshour (19:00 minute mark), based on this True/Slant post.

       
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