Facebook's Beginnings Likely Shaped Its Privacy Policies

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As is true most Fridays, today has been a rather slow news day, but thankfully, that gives me more time to read. And when I have more time to read, I can pass along gems like this one, published at Business Insider.


I think this might explain a lot about why Facebook now has the <strong>privacy policies and practices it does</strong>. It also could explain why CEO Mark Zuckerberg so easily tells anyone who will listen these days that the idea of privacy is fading, and that most people aren't interested in it anymore.


In Nicholas Carlson's piece, he tells the "full story" of Facebook's beginning. He starts with the initial conversations Harvard sophomore Zuckerberg had with the trio of seniors who wanted him to code for a new Web site they wanted to start, called HarvardConnection. Then, complete with instant messages and e-mails that have not been made public until now, he outlines how Zuckerberg appears to have decided to create his own site -- thefacebook.com -- but not to tell the HarvardConnection founders he wasn't working on their project until his was almost finished.


When Facebook.com launched in 2004, the founders of the rival site, which became ConnectU, sued Zuckerberg and the company for breaching their agreement and fraud. In 2008, Facebook settled the lawsuit for $65 million -- presumably in part because the company knew the e-mails and IMs Carlson used in his story eventually would come to light.


Carlson confronted Facebook with the story and gave the company a chance to respond. It did so only with the following statement:

We're not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook's early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook's growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people.


Carlson agrees that Zuckerberg's accomplishments in six years have been "awe-inspiring," and then concludes this way:

Bottom line, we haven't seen anything that makes us think that, whatever Mark did to the Harvard Connection folks, it was worth more than the $65 million they received in the lawsuit settlement.