Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, was under scrutiny this week as he spent two days testifying to the US Congress, regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal where over 87 million users had their data leaked.
The original business model for Facebook, was to create new features constantly and release often; if they were received well, then they would remain and if not, then certain aspects would be worked on. The key to this was speed and it worked for Facebook. Consumers nowadays want newer, faster, flashier technology and Facebook kept up with that. They attracted over 2 billion users using this model, and with that came the interest of advertisers.
Facebook was initially built to get people to use it every day and that they should share posts more frequently. You see, the more activity, the more data Facebook collects, and the more precisely advertisers can target their ads. All this product development was shaped by user activity and surveys; not by Zuckerberg himself.
However, Zuckerberg stated that his priority "was always growth and the best experience for users," meaning that the users best interests were at heart. However, having data for that many users meant that Zuckerberg needed to become more involved; setting limits on what the company could do with the user data and ensuring they had the users’ agreement to hand over their information. This didn’t happen.
Early this week, Zuckerberg stated that he hadn't thought about Facebook’s responsibility to users broadly enough, until now. "We have a responsibility to not just build tools, but make sure those tools are used for good," Zuckerberg wrote.
The company model meant that everything moved so quickly, so any negative consequences of product upgrades and changes were not predicted. Facebook usually depended on the users and the media to pick up any issues, in which Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook learned about the Cambridge Analytica data leak from the media.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek last year, before Facebook understood the scale of Russian meddling in the election or data leaks from developers, Zuckerberg said he builds products optimistically:
“If you're trying to take on something complex, you're going to get blamed for not fully understanding the problem upfront, even though it is really impossible to fully understand a problem when you're doing a new thing," Zuckerberg said. "It's not like the question is, 'was this thing good or not.' This is one building block and we need to build other building blocks."
This basically means that Facebook is not a finished product and is released in the hopes of functioning well. If not, the users will let them know.
This model worked for a while, but now Zuckerberg is now paying for that approach. Over the last two weeks, Zuckerberg has been grilled by the US Congress; been the topic of many Internet Memes and had his company’s business model challenged.
A review of all Facebook's products is currently taking place; where the engineers have been questioned as to how Facebook uses its data. Zuckerberg is also rethinking the business model, hopefully favouring the users and not the advertisers this time.