Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook “didn’t see all the risks”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg said MIT’s graduating class should use technology as a “force for good” but warned that others might use it for harm.

Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, used Facebook’s missteps as a lesson in accountability in her commencement speech Friday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She said Facebook’s leaders “didn’t see all the risks coming” and “didn’t do enough to stop them.” Her lesson for students is to “own” their mistakes to prevent future ones.

“It’s hard when you know you let people down,” she added.

The social-media giant has been under intense scrutiny in the wake of a privacy scandal involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica

Facebook disclosed this week that a software glitch caused privacy settings for as many as 14 million users to be switched from “private” to “public.” That resulted posts being shared with a broader audience than people intended.  

The company also drew unwanted attention after The New York Times reported that Facebook had data-sharing deals with more than 60 device makers, including Huawei, a Chinese firm with alleged ties to the government in Beijing.

Sandberg did not elaborate on Facebook’s missteps in her speech.

Citing the power of technology to promote social justice and unite people, she also acknowledged the down side.

“[I]t also empowers those that would seek to do harm,” Sandberg said. “When everyone has a voice, some raise their voices in hatred. When everyone can share, some share lies.”

Still, Sandberg says she’s proud that Facebook has helped people “organize for democracy” and urged students to be “clear-eyed optimists.”

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Categories: Technology

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