The Business Insider has reported that, when he was 19 years old, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg had an instant messenger conversation where he boasted about his access to the personal data of Facebook users and called those users "dumb" for trusting him. Facebook issued a report neither confirming or denying the story. Whether or not the conversation really happened, the report is another in a series of high-profile incidents highlighting Facebook's rapid dismantling of user privacy. The negative media portrayal of Facebook is quickly becoming a trend, bringing the Silicon Valley coverage of the company's troubles into the national mainstream. Do Facebook and Zuckerberg now face public relations problems? Or is the media being too hard on the web giant?

  • Facebook's Bad Image Snowballing Out of Control  Newsweek's Nick Summers says this isn't like past Facebook privacy scuffles, which never amounted to anything. "Something different is afoot now. ... serious unrest began to percolate—seemingly from all corners." A forthcoming Aaron Sorkin movie about Zuckerberg "portrays Zuckerberg as a borderline autistic, entirely ruthless conniver. Nothing sways public opinion like a movie—and this scorcher could counteract the entire body of good press Facebook has received till now."
  • Time For a Facebook Alternative  Wired's Ryan Singel makes the call. "Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed."
  • Mainstream Media Turning On Zuckerberg  The Business Insider's Nick Saint warns, "Facebook has suffered backlashes over its privacy policies before, and they haven't done anything to dent the social network's staggering growth. As long as the outrage -- no matter how fierce -- is mostly confined to the technology media, very few of Facebook's 400 million users ever hear, much less care, about it. So it's very bad news for Facebook that an increasing number of media outlets outside the tech community are paying attention to the privacy backlash this time around. ... Facebook has a few more news days like this, people outside the technology world will start to notice."
  • 'Media Attacks' Go Too Far  Tech Crunch's Michael Arrington calls it "out of hand." He writes, "It’s completely out of hand, and it’s just another example of an online mob getting out of control. I’m embarrassed to see people I respect stopping one step short of calling for physical violence against Zuckerberg. And they certainly aren’t stopping short of calling him every nasty thing they can think of. The Huffington Post actually compared Facebook’s privacy issues to the BP oil spill. Shameful." Sure, we should debate Facebook's privacy issues, but we're missing the point.
But what Mark Zuckerberg said or didn’t say six years ago isn’t relevant to anything. It isn’t an indication of his character, or how he views privacy today. It’s nothing, a snip of a private conversation without context and certainly without the benefit of knowing more about him as a person.

... And frankly, none of what Facebook is doing privacy-wise should be a surprise to anyone. At a high level anyway. Facebook is trying to invent, on the fly, an entirely new way of organizing the Internet.
  • EU Group Criticizes Facebook  The U.K. Telegraph reports that the European Union's Data Protection Working Party, which monitors Internet issues, "wrote a letter to Facebook, saying recent changes that made previously private information publicly viewable by default were 'unacceptable'. ... the group said that profile information, and data about the connections between users, should have a default setting in which this information was only shared with 'self-selected' contacts."