×

Ex-Facebook privacy manager says company cares more about data collection than protecting users

  • A former Facebook privacy manager said the company he worked at in 2011 and 2012 "prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse."
  • In a sharply critical New York Times opinion piece, Sandy Parakilas said Facebook "has no incentive to police the collection or use of data" on its users, given its business model.
  • "The fact that Facebook prioritized data collection over user protection and regulatory compliance is precisely what made it so attractive" to advertisers, he wrote.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

A former operations manager responsible for Facebook's privacy efforts said the company "prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse."

In a sharply critical New York Times opinion piece that published Monday, Sandy Parakilas said Facebook "has no incentive to police the collection or use of data," on its users, given its business model of selling online ads.

"I led Facebook's efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse," he wrote in the post.

"The fact that Facebook prioritized data collection over user protection and regulatory compliance is precisely what made it so attractive" to advertisers, wrote Parakilas, who worked as an operations manager on the platform team at Facebook in 2011 and 2012.

Facebook ad sales are expected to climb 45 percent this year to $27.6 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. This growth has helped push up its shares more than 50 percent this year and made founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg the world's fifth-richest person, according to Forbes.

Parakilas suggested the company Zuckerberg leads is obsessed with its press coverage and will only protect user data "when negative press or regulators are involved."

"The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn't really care how the data was used," said Parakilas, who is not the first former manager at the company to criticize it this year.

"Lawmakers shouldn't allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won't," Parakilas wrote, referring to several bills before Congress, one which would rely on Facebook itself to report users who violate its rules on hate speech and another to enforce a buyer disclaimer on political ads.

In reply to an email seeking comment, a Facebook spokesperson referred CNBC to a post written by Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations.

"While it's fair to criticize how we enforced our developer policies more than five years ago, it's untrue to suggest we didn't or don't care about privacy," Osofsky wrote in the Nov. 20 post, which also noted the company's obligations under a prior settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

In 2011, the FTC had charged that Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on the site private "and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."

Noting the agreement that was created the following year, to settle the charges, Osofsky wrote:

"Our privacy program, created in 2012, includes hundreds of people from a variety of teams across the company. This group works with product managers and engineers to protect people's data, to give people information about how our features work, and to provide people control over how their data is used."

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly reflect Parakilas' gender.