Mark Zuckerberg has been immensely successful in capturing the popular imagination of budding and aspiring entrepreneurs around the world. Mr. Zuckerberg has become the quintessential image of what a successful entrepreneur can accomplish.
The stories about the dreary Harvard dorm room coding sessions to his now famous grey sweatshirt attire, Zuckerberg personifies what a combination of ambition and talent can achieve.
Though Facebook has been marred with plenty of controversies before, none of them have caused the level of furor that the latest Cambridge Analytica controversy generated.
As per the latest figures, at least 50 million Facebook users have had their personal data harvested. To make matters worse, it is believed that this aided Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign through the spread of fake news and elaborate propaganda.
Mark Zuckerberg responded in an earnest manner. On Anderson Cooper 360, he accepted that Facebook has a basic responsibility to protect the data of its users.
In a public post on Facebook, Zuckerberg further clarified the remorse he feels about “the breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us”.
In addition to his Facebook post, there was also a New York Times interview where he expresses similar repentance. While these are good and encouraging first steps, he’s still faced mounting criticism for having avoided an apology in all of his interviews including his post about the subject. He accepts responsibility for the entire fiasco, yet offers no apology.
In this case, Mr. Zuckerberg has portrayed an image of someone who knows the error in what he’s done but does not think that it’s something worth apologizing over. By doing so he’s doing more harm to his already dappled image in the public right now.
It is one of the key characteristics that have historically defined some of the most revolutionary entrepreneurial names in history.
The willingness to accept responsibility and to shoulder the blame in case of failures is what defines a successful entrepreneur that others can look up to.
Mark Zuckerberg now risks becoming the antithesis of all of the above with his inept and deficient response to the Cambridge Analytica controversy.
To his credit, he hasn’t gone completely mum about the issue. Among the noteworthy acts that Facebook has carried out is banning the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica. It has additionally banned the whistleblower Christopher Wylie after the revelations came forward.
He has simultaneously promised the introduction of stricter and more effective AI tools that would be able to identify the numerous fake accounts that were allegedly used to create confusion and spread fake news.
It is also expected that there will be a far more thorough vetting process introduced in order to review third party apps on Facebook.
While all of these steps allow a brief glimpse into a future where Facebook takes the privacy of its users’ data more seriously, they don’t address Mark Zuckerberg’s immediate role amidst the current crisis.
And perhaps most importantly, how will the users’ own attitudes change after this episode. They must take the initiative themselves to review how much of their data and information is available to third-parties that can potential harvest their data. They must also treat news items on Facebook with a little more critical evaluation rather than believing them outright.