Facebook and Dangerous Ideas

Of all the ideas that a CEO can have, is the most dangerous one the idea that his main objective should be to generate profits for shareholders?

How about a belief in the idea that your privacy — the privacy of millions of customers, whose information he holds in the palm of his hand — just doesn’t matter? That’s roughly what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to believe.

Venture Beat’s Kim-Mai Cutler looked around and found a bunch of evidence about just what Zuckerberg believes, including this gem:

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

What Zuckerberg is really talking about when he talks about people having “two identities” is privacy. He means revealing more or different information to some people than you do to others. And far from betraying a deep character flaw (“lack of integrity”), giving differential access to information about ourselves is widely regarded as an important part of how we develop and maintain intimate relationships. Your friends (including Facebook “friends”) are more or less just people who have access to information about you that most people don’t have. What it means to be intimate with someone (sexually or otherwise) is to give them access that you don’t give to everyone. It’s what makes them special. For someone like Zuckerberg not to understand this is truly scary, given how much information he controls.

And as usual, my point here is more about the general question than about the particular instance. The point of this blog entry isn’t to add one more voice to the chorus of criticisms levelled against Facebook recently. I’m just using Facebook as an example, to illustrate the point. Many people believe that the belief in the importance of profits is the big, dangerous idea we need to worry about. But it’s not. There is nothing wrong with zealously pursuing profits, so long as you don’t do so through anti-social means.

So here’s a CEO with a truly scary belief, but it’s not the belief in the importance of profits.

No, the real danger doesn’t lie in a commitment to making profits; the danger lies in what you’re willing to do to make those profits.

29 comments so far

  1. davidcoethica on

    Good post Chris which highlights the basic premise of the ‘problems’ at Facebook, like many other larger corporations, s CEO too disconnected from the rest of the population.

  2. Alan Maddick on

    Great post,

    unfortuntely the problem of what business will do in hte pursuit of money is always the problem. I am sure it is possible to earn money ethically and you would hope businesses like facebook would be the first to put their hand up to lead in this area in the “new world” of integrity that they speak of.

  3. Phillip Flores on


    I came across your blog via mercatornet.com. When you say “the danger lies in what you’re willing to do to make those profits.” is probably another way of stating that the end does not justify the means. I’ve just added your blog in my rss reader.

  4. Tom Herrnstein on

    Excellent point about intimate relationships, and I think your point can be broadened to other parts of our lives. Philosophically, Zuckerberg seems to have the view that the public self should match the “true” or “pure” inner self in all aspects. But this is an attitude that people tend to outgrow for good reason: we are in different kinds of relationships with different people, and we owe it to others to present ourselves properly to them in their context. That involves showing aspects of ourselves to others. The key is to show an aspect of yourself that is authentic, rather than a false aspect in order to take advantage of others. Zuckerberg confuses integrity, or being a whole person, with showing your “whole self” (whatever that would be) to everyone regardless of context. Being a whole person is having your parts fit together coherently and ethically—not just being one big part.

  5. Marta on

    Crystal clear. Sharing images, intimate messages, anecdotes… with people you know nothing about, people who can take advantage of all these treasures is just painful. I hope regulations help stopping this nonsensical robbery.

  6. ana jaimerena on

    I agree with the author, because all what he says on the blog is true. In facebook, we don´t have any kind of privacy because when people write things everyone can read them and in the end it’s as if you were writing your diary in public.

  7. Cristina Merayo on

    In mi opinion, it´s a very intelligent text because the argumets that use MacDonald are very logical and credible. But I don´t have the same opinion on all these things, for example:
    I agree when he says that in facebook people have information abouth others that usually most people don´t have, and it makes easy the communication between two people, but It isn´t secure, because you aren´t sure who are you speaking with.
    I don´t agree when he mention that , I don´t think that to create a doble profile in this social networking is to have a double identity. It isn´t very fair but sometimes people create that second profile to have a good time or snigger people.
    Otherwise, It´s a good text and very practical to make people aware that social networks aren´t secure.

  8. Nerea Frias on

    In my opinion facebook don´t secure because anyone can see your count in facebook. Count don´t have a security and that is very important in the facebook, because if it have a secury anyone don´t see the count.
    Some people do two count and that are bored or they have two count for impersonate other person.

    • Chris MacDonald on

      Nerea, it’s actually not true that anyone can see your Facebook account…there are privacy settings which, if set appropriately, limit who can see your account.

      • Nerea Frias on

        Excuse me,I didn´t understand paragraph 4 but now I read again and I understand well.I don´t have a facebook profile and I didn´t know about the privacy.

        Thank you

  9. xabier gil on

    I think that this text is very interesting, because the author mentions a lot of problems in facebook area.
    I agree when he says that we can see the information of other people and that we can stay in touch with other people.
    But it is true that we havent got any privacy in this area and other people can read you things.

  10. Naiara Igarabide on

    This text is very sensible speaking about facebook. Really I think that he speaks about something that we everybody know, but we don´t repare in It, and we don´t think that It´s important when we are into facebook or other social networking.
    In my opinion I´m completly agree with MacDonald when he mention the two identities, because It´s true that in facebook, for example, we give more information about ourselves, and people have a lot of information about us, so, It´s easier intimate with people.
    But I think that MacDonald is exaggerating. It´s true that some people lie about their identities in facebook, but It doesn´t mean that everybody lies about themselves.
    Otherwise, It´s an interesting text to make remember to people that social networks are secure to our privacity.

    • Chris MacDonald on


      Please be careful: I never said that everybody lies about themselves.


      • Naiara Igarabide on

        Sorry, It´s true that you didn´t write that everybody lies on Facebook, I should have missinterpreted the second paragraph about Mark Zuckenberg. Now I understand that you were speaking about the danger being in the same company of Facebook. They don´t respect our information, the problem isn´t that people can lie to each other.
        Thank you to correct me.
        Good text.

  11. unai sagaseta on

    in my opinion, facebook is a very good invention if we use to do great things and if we behave is maturity when we are in it, for example you can find friends who you studied many years ago and you can speak with them again.
    But if you post privacy things you can have problems because the (photo, document,comment)can see many persons.
    in conclusions, facebook is a good place if you do not use for privacy or dangerous things.

  12. Roxa Mindeguia on

    Facebook is a good inbention because it help to do more friends and to meet new people.
    But I´m agree with the autor of the text when he says that we reveal too much information to other people. In my opinion this is the danger side of facebook.

  13. Luixa Mujika on

    In my opinion we can use facebook to have fun and to meet new people.
    But it´s true that if we give extra information of us it will be dangerous because people can see that.
    I think we can use facebook but with a privacy, not giving a lot of information, to be secure, we must be careful.

  14. Mirentxu Gortari on

    Facebook is good to do more friends, but I agree with he because the arguments that he use are true. I think that facebook is very dangerous because we write things and everyone can read it. Definitely, it hasn´t got security.

  15. Laura Mendibil on

    I think that this is a text which everybody has to read, because it gives important information for people who have an account in facebook. Some of those people don´t know the risks they take and I think that they must know it. A lot of times people give so much private information and it can be dangerous.
    But facebook is also a good way to communicate with friends, especially with those who are far.
    In my opinion, facebook is a good instrument if you use it correctly.

    • Marta on

      Laura, I think you put it very clearly and I’m happy to say that I agree with you.

  16. iñaki zubiri on

    Facebook may be a interesting place where we can meet a lot of people, but in an other hand I´m agree with the author, because our privacy isn´t sure in facebook.

    In my opinion facebook can be a dangerous website.

  17. Idoia Migeltorena on

    In my opinion,facebook is good to do friends or to met people but it has some disadvantages. For example when we write anythin all people see…
    In conclusion, facebook is good to do friends but it isn´t private with commentaryes…

  18. Miren Inda on

    In my opinion, I agree with McDonald facebook is a social net that it can be dangerous because a lot of peole can see many information about you, and it makes to not have your own privacity. Moreover, many people uses false identities and that can be a reason to fool people.
    But I´m not completely agree with McDonald, because I think that if you know how to use correctly the social net, you cannot have much problems, so the thing is to find the correct form to use it.

  19. Haizea Otermin on

    In my opinion, Facebook is a website that permit to talk with friends, it is true that it is dangerous, because they public private information there, but i think, each person has to be responsible for the information they write in their profiles, and i think everyone has to see who people have added them. I think if people do not write in public information and if people know who persons have there, no problem, anyway we also have the option to take private our profile.

  20. ixaro petrirena gortari on

    The text is practically easy to understand,facebook is nowadays one of units in our mouths. There you can see your friends images, information,… and you can talk with your friends but it is dangerous.

    In my opinion, Facebook is a dangerous website,because all peple who has Facebook can see your own private information. I´m not agree completely with McDonald because if you can use correctly tsis website you can fun there, but if you meet people that you haven´t meet in your lives it maybe be dangerous.

  21. iraide sagardia on

    In my opinion facebook can be dangerous, because in this area you can´t got any privacity. Some people use this to look her friends, only for this. But another people use facebook to talk about her life, and this can´t be good. Is recomendaly that people write false adresses.

  22. […] #8. Facebook and Dangerous Ideas. This blog entry was about the ideas that drive companies, and which ideas are dangerous ones. Plenty of people assume that the dangerous idea is the idea that companies must maximize profits. Here, I argue that there are other ideas, including some that seem to drive Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, that are far more dangerous. […]

  23. Thomas on

    I personally don’t believe Facebook / Mark Zuckerberg is any worse than any other big corporation out there. And it’s really up to yourself how much infomation you sahre on those social networks. I just assume I am “mined” for data all the time when I am on the net.

  24. jane on

    Facebook has no way to protect a persons character in the case of company pages and ethical practices.
    I think that facebook should come up with a way to handle employer in the case of defamation of character and other kinds of employer abuse on their facebook pages. Employees being on a company page on such popular social network can cause lots of problems for the employee. The real question is how does someone fight something like this if it happens to them? What does facebook have to protect its users?

    here is one I know of:

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