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Damning Zuckerberg IMs confirmed (boingboing.net)
251 points by btilly on Sept 14, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 157 comments

So at what age are you old enough to be held accountable for what you say? Maybe I'm old-fashioned, living in a world before the term "Emerging Adulthood" was coined and people were expected to be reasonably mature by the time they were old enough to graduate from college.

He deserves EVERY single piece of negative response he gets for those comments. Even then, he was being trusted with people's private information, a trust that he not only disdained, but he openly expressed a desire to abuse.

If that were the only insights into his personality, I'd agree that "context, age, blah, blah, blah", but when taken with everything else about him, it paints a picture of a guy that I would want nothing to do with.

The real question, though, IMO, is whether interacting with Facebook is really having anything to do with Zuck. I wouldn't want to actually have business dealings with FB, but, at this point, to what extent could Zuck "fuck them in the ear" (to use his eloquent phrase)? I think the answer to that is not so much (I do have an account) but enough that I'm not going to go overboard (minimal status updates; photos are backed up not stored on FB; no use of places or likes; etc).

I'm inclined to agree with you regarding accountability. But, I dunno, I really don't want my company or business ethics judged by stuff I said to friends in college... through IM. People say stupid stuff all the time.

If it were just generic stuff, I would completely agree. I say stupid stuff to my friends now.

However, he was talking about his customers, the people using his service. That gives much less leniency, in my book, especially when everything else is taken into account.

I guess I see it much the same as I'd see an investment advisor who open talked about screwing his customers out of their money. FB's financial value comes from the data that Zuck is talking about screwing people with.

Customers? I don't think anyone saw Facebook then as they see it today.

I agree. It's amazing how much I have to police my coworkers not to say the wrong thing, but I don't consider them evil. They say stuff, but they are just joking around. Sometimes I must seem to be a PC prude to them.

"They say stuff, but they are just joking around."

I've found that jokes often reveal a lot about what people actually believe.


I mean.. maybe if you didn't know that, this will alert you to it, and welcome to the internet. They're Facebook, we don't need to go easy on him.

You know, I agree with you completely. This thread is rather depressing, a lot of people saying "it's not a big deal, he was young, etc". This is an ethically-challenged 19 year old who is boasting too much. It is a big deal (anyone remember Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, there are some non-trivial similarities between Zuckerberg and Skilling when he was young).

The take home lesson here is that all your online activities can be used in court against you some day in unbelievable detail, so if you plan on being 'successful' start acting responsible today, no matter what your age.

Impressions matter, during a lawsuit evidence matters, this provides plenty of both.

I haven't asked Zuck personally if he made these comments. However I can say that after working with him on privacy and photo related issues that these comments definitely don't characterize his approach to the subject. He seems like a pretty normal guy just trying to make the world more open and connected.

I agree with jacquesm...this is a great lesson. Don't email, IM, text, etc anything you wouldn't want to read on Valleywag.

Don't use a search engine to look for it either, or visit websites related to it from a browser or location that could be tracked back to you.

And don't leave voicemails about it to someone with google voice, or talk about it to someone using google to call you. Don't talk about it internationally on skype, and don't visit untoward locations with your smartphone in your pocket. Don't drive there using gps, either.

Is there a plausible way to spread disinformation about your activity, such that if anyone ever brought up your past electronic activities you could show that there's no way to tell what's a true record and what's just random shit created by some service?

Well, there's always


which gives "perfect" forward secrecy

I wasn't thinking about secrecy, but about false openness. For example, having eight Facebook accounts, and (somehow) making sure your trusted friends knows which is the real on, while each of them present a different personae. Decoy sites, suppose.

I am not much of a crypto but I'd be curious to know if this is open to goverment monitoring. Do you know?

No, it's not open to government monitoring, unless of course they have the ability to break "unbreakable" encryption. And, if they do manage to magically brute force a single key, they only get a single message decrypted. Each message uses a different key, so compromising a single message doesn't compromise the whole conversation.

For a school project I (sorta) implemented this on Android 1.5 two years ago. I stopped before finishing the key rotation stuff, so ended up with just a encrypted text messaging client. Another company just recently announced an OTR text message program for android, you should look it up! Textsecure by Whisper Systems.

Clickable link: http://www.whispersys.com/

Very nice. This is reassuring that such stuff is still available, legal and protects us from the peering eyes of whoever is in power at any time...

There are laws regarding the recording of conversations, and GPS usage does not leave a trail.

If the call was already being recorded (say for voicemail) it can simply be subpoenaed. In the eyes of the law the defendant wiretapped themselves.

Of course the actual GPS service, involving beeping atomic clocks in space and a passive receiver in your device leaves no trail. But everybody appears to use 'GPS' to refer to "directed navigation" applications running on small computers that like to keep logs of waypoints and intended destinations. The iPhone's Maps app even takes a screenshot when you switch away from it to make it feel snappier when you return, and these pictures can be recovered forensically.

Indeed, although they're surprisingly inconsistent (at least as regards telephonic conversation): http://www.callcorder.com/phone-recording-law-america.htm

I don't really see any qualitative difference between that and logging IMs, it's just that the latter is technically much easier to do. But as a record of a private conversation between two people, I feel it ought to be subject to the same evaluations of admissibility.

Not really, since IMs are expected to be logged they can even be subpoenaed, but a recording made outside of a warranted wiretap would not be admissible evidence.

Ditto email, log files and so on, basically any textual communication is subject to subpoena, but the 'spoken word' is expected to be transient unless you have a microphone stuck in your face or have been warned very explicitly that one is present.

No that's not true. A private person can privately record any conversation he or she wants. (Remember Monica?)

Warrant requirements only apply to government action, meaning the government itself or someone acting on the government's behalf. If you talk to someone on the phone and that person records you on his own, without government inducement, then the court will consider the recording hearsay but admissible at trial under a few exceptions to the hearsay rule.

The world is larger than the USA, and twelve US states have laws forbidding the recording of private conversations without all parties consent.

Fair enough.

Do you know whether those prohibited recordings would be admissible as evidence in court, despite being non-consensual? Or is the weight of their prohibition that they are inadmissible?

Yes, but my point is that the written word now encompasses the kind of ephemeral that would never have been preserved in the past.

That's absolutely true, after all, IM messages are more on the level of 'brainfarts' than a carefully considered letter would be.

But since people are being sued and fired over tweets it seems safe to assume that those kinds of communications now carry the same weight as every other written form.

We agree about that - I'm just concerned that our technological ability is outpacing the responsiveness of our legal system. Like, imagine you were in court and someone pulled out a scrap of paper from 2004 saying 'gone 2 lunch, back in 15 minutes - Jacques' and then argues that you were actually gone for a full half hour, and that this calls your entire character into question. You're not wrong about people needing to be more careful; I just have reservations about the ramifications. I rather like the European approach that internet companies have a responsibility to wipe the data they host after a certain time rather than keep it online perpetually.

ps Ephemera, not ephemeral. Damn auto-correcting phone :-)

Not exactly correct, afaik, email to your lawyer is considered privileged and can't be subpoenaed.

Why not talk on Skype? How does someone set about recording or listening in to a call made on Skype?

The issue here is that Zuck's IM buddy probably logged the conversation and then released to the media or as part of the law suit later. So calling is nice but there is plenty of equally efficient skype plugins for recording voice. duh.

Without the "duh" this is a good comment. Why sully it?

Ok then - sorry for the duh if it offended anyone. It's really not that insulting you know. Plus I had a humorous smirk on my face when I replied. So much for my joking mood! Now, what in the name of Elvis does "sullying comments" mean?


–verb (used with object)

1. to soil, stain, or tarnish.

2. to mar the purity or luster of; defile: to sully a reputation.

Some buddy! In my naivety I was thinking of a third party.

Thanks for the 'duh'. This is not a term I use or have heard used by anyone I know (well, that's how the world can be sometimes for English speakers outside the US) but I have now looked it up and have therefore learned something.

I was referring to something I had heard a while ago about the NSA requiring keys to skype encryption because it can cross international borders. Don't know how true it is.

New rule: If you didn't work at Facebook or with Zuck when there was a "the" in the URL, you don't really know much about the origins of the company, and you know even less about the guy.

You're saying that people who actually work with Mark Zuckerberg know less about him than the people who have never met him that are writing articles about him? And that have an incentive to write sensational things about him?

(Since I can't reply to the comment below mine)

I'm saying that new hires and people whose companies remain in the Facebook honeymoon period don't know much.

To be honest I think this is linkbaity - it's the same quotes that have been acknowledged more or less openly since spring. Maybe he's a bad person, maybe he was just a typical shit-talking 19 year old. It's kind of meaningless without the context of their other conversations; for all I know it's some running joke that went between them, or a movie reference or whatever.

What significance will this have? The lawsuit from the twins is parked in the courts, and the breach of contract one launched recently is entertaining but not very likely to succeed. When the movie comes out next month everyone can hate on the socially awkward guy and argue about whether he deserves his millions or not, probably on Facebook. I think the only consequences are to boost movie ticket sales a little and make Zuckerberg even more of social recluse. Even if he is an arrogant jerk and every bad thing about him is true, so what? Has he killed anyone? Was anyone forced to use Facebook? I wasn't, I logged in 6 months ago and set my account to have minimal sharing permissions, and I don't think there was ever much that could be called scandalous there anyway. He doesn't seem any worse ethically speaking than the YouTube guys.

The only thing I have a problem with is the idea that once you get anywhere, everything you ever said on the internet is going to be dug up by someone because now there's a market in discussing your personal details, and digging them up requires almost zero effort. There's a big difference between standing in the metaphorical public square shouting your opinion to the world (which you expect to have recorded forever, for good or ill), and saying something random in some dimly lit restaurant booth to a friend, only to have it analyzed worldwide as if it were the crystallized essence of your personality many years later.

I agree it is linkbaity. But most of the web is taking a moment to shit on Zuck and I think it's nice to have a collection of people who know he was probably just a typical shit-talking 19 year old.

Does this matter? An immature kid collected everyone's personal information that they willingly volunteered. He said he was going to fuck them in the ear, but didn't.

Now his company has a privacy policy that they are legally obligated to follow. If Zuck decided to fuck someone in the ear right now, that would be a problem. But he seems to be under control.

So what now? Is everyone going to stop using Facebook? Are people going to take his company away from him? I just don't see any recourse that anyone can take other than not clicking ads on Facebook. In the end, that's all Facebook a website with ads and your friend's phone numbers.

(I don't have a Facebook account. I also use OTR for my instant messages.)

Dunno... nice scandal, but I don't think it matters at all. Zuck is human. He is trusts his friends and maybe talks him self up a bit. That's all I get from this "scandal", and I'm the biggest Facebook hater around.

Hm, not sure if you were replying to me or not, but no, it does not matter for the end users. But I bet that Zuck wished he had been a bit more careful with those messages.

I don't know why you got downvoted. The phrase I like to use is that "what happens on the internet stays on the internet"

"what happens on the internet stays on the internet, forever"

Thanks, joke explainer. The parent version is a little more subtle, but has the same implication and is less heavy handed.

You're welcome.

Same reason Eric Schmidt get's ripped for his privacy comments.

I dunno, it seems like Zuck is plenty successful and will go on to lead a wealthy and fulfilling life. Maybe the takeaway should be, "Don't worry about how you talk to your friends privately. By the time it can come back to bite you, you will already be too rich to care."

I'm hearing the immortal words of my first (and only) law professor:

The E in E-mail stands for "Evidence"

That's fantastic!

I'm going to borrow this for client use.

I gotta say, this is what I love about HN: an idea can leap from a college professor to a practicing attorney using a simple coder as a medium.

That, and there aren't too many flamewars.

Including our comments on this forum.

One good that can come out of it is people will start behaving themselves online too, just like they (mostly) do in person.

You must introduce me to these people you know.

Maybe they can. They certainly shouldn't. Should you be required to act "responsibly" at all times? I think most everyone plans on being "successful" one day. A lot of them will never succeed - should they all spend their whole life being ultra-PC/conservative/responsible/whatever you want to call it? I'm not sure that's a good deal to make with society.

This sounds like silly posturing of a young rebel - or at least someone who wants to appear to be a rebel to his friend. And that is one of the points of privacy - YOU decide which face to show to which person. A lot of the conversations that come out in this style are private; IMO they should never be published. I grant you that in this case he was talking about his business. But even here, I'm not sure I agree with the morality of it being used against him.

Impressions do matter, but the expectation of privacy is a reasonable one, that ideally would be better protected by law. Even if you are not a privacy nut, I think it's pretty clear that this allows you control over your image to a certain extent. You are allowed to act differently in your own home than when speaking as CEO. People should not be allowed to pry on one & use it against you for the other.

I love Robert Scoble's view on this. Anything happening online is effectively public.

As he puts it, if your "private" data is just a copy-paste away from being posted in public, it's not really private at all.

His view is similar to mine: The only privacy filters you need are discretion and sobriety.

Or, if you don't feel like internalizing a bunch of "responsibility" and watering yourself down, get ready to be misunderstood and torn to pieces. And get ready not to care about people who don't care to understand you.

I understand that having integrity (a public face no different than your private face) is better than being a hypocrite. But it's better to have real, strong opinions than to have milquetoast integrity.

Oh, I never meant that you should fake it.

You will just have to grow up a bit quicker if you plan on being a player some day.

And if you hold strong opinions be prepared to apologize with grace.

>if you hold strong opinions be prepared to apologize with grace.

I'm quoting this from now on. Can I attribute it to you? (I understand your reservation to giving out a real name over HN. Pls email me at this username at gmail.)

This is just a few IM's of a kid joking with his college buddy about what was then nothing more than a side project. It's not like he could have known that in a few years it would have become one of the world's biggest web sites. It sounds like he's just having a laugh with a friend.

Honestly if I was in his position at the same time at that same age I would have joked in the same way. I doubt his views on the matter are the same now that he's many years older and his site has a dictionary entry. Give the kid a break.

> It's not like he could have known that in a few years it would have become one of the world's biggest web sites.

That's the exact reason a lot of people see this as such an insight into his true nature. The true mark of character is not to behave morally when you know you are being watched. Any intelligent liar or psychopath can pull that off. The true mark is what you do when you don't think the information will spread.

Of course if he did still harbor the same underlying attitude now, one wouldn't expect some youthful prank if and when he decided to 'fuck them'. You have to imagine there will be many times when Facebook will have to decide between the honoring the trust of their users versus some other gain. When these decision are made that underlying attitude may still be calling the shots.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as he was typing these IM's I don't think he was rubbing his hands and twiddling his mustache while cackling madly. There seem to be two camps of people on this issue: people who think he's a natural sociopath and was plotting on how to manipulate and cheat people from inside the womb (people who don't think personalities and opinions can change), and people who think he's probably just making a self-deprecating joke at a time in his life when this project wasn't yet as serious as it is now.

I'd rather picture the guy as an (extremely) socially clueless but generally well-meaning person whose sense of humor might be a little off. Sure he's had his privacy slip-ups in the past but the kid is captaining completely uncharted waters with one hand and beating back thousands of influencers throwing fistfuls of money with the other. I suspect that if anyone on this board, including me, found themselves with the almost overnight success of Facebook on their hands it wouldn't be too hard to find some out-of-context IM's to smear them with either. Let he who is without sin, blah blah blah.

Edit: To be clear I'm referring just to these IM's and how they relate to his running FB today, not to whatever history he may or may not have had with other developers. I don't know enough of that backstory to comment.

I would have joked, but not in the same way. Calling his own users 'dumb fucks' for trusting him is insulting and implies that he's unethical.

You really seem to ignore the context. Sometimes, (the ability to be able) to do wrong can be "cool". Why do you think young people smoke?

Dude, calling your users dumb is fine. But saying you're going to 'fuck them in the ear'? When would that be cool? He wasn't 14 btw, when he said this...

"f them in the ear" was not in the context of users, it was in the context of ConnectU and competing websites. It's more obvious in the New Yorker article.

So he was talking about the company he worked for and probably stole the idea from? I'm not sure that's better...

Dunno. I call people that use my software idiots for choosing to use my software. It's more of a self-deprecating thing than me actually thinking they are idiots.

Phrases can have many meanings, and it's tough to draw a conclusion from a handful of sentences. I often have IM conversations where I pretend to be someone else and sarcastically say things that they would say, without any indication of that in the text. People I am friendly with online know that that's not me, and they read it as sarcasm. Post it on a blog, and people are guaranteed to have the wrong idea.

Everybody loves to hate the big guys, but this IM conversation doesn't really rile me up.

He may have been trying to say "Wow they trust _me_. Why would they trust me with anything?" But when you’re talking to close friends, not millions of people, you tend not to worry so much about phrasing.

>>Calling his own users 'dumb fucks' for trusting him [...] insulting [...] unethical

That was written 16 hours ago and voted to +22??

Oh, please...

My remaining har is gray -- and I'd still add such a comment as an automatic joke about anyone trusting me.

It is an obvious self deprecating joke to say/write at that point, laugh about -- and forget in less than five seconds.

That said, I think Facebook as a non-open company is bad. An application with more information about people than Google should be distributed, for all our sakes. (No, I don't have any alternate ideas.)

But damning that kid for having a sense of humor is ridiculous.

And, worse, this might force me to stop joking... :-)

See my reply below as to why you are completely wrong. Normally I wouldn't emphasize a point so much; in this case it's quite personal and aside from my personal connection, I believe, quite important. Intellectual property theft affects a lot of people who work on software, and it's crucial that the community appreciate the nuance of a case as informative as this.

Did you have any contact with the producers of "The Social Network" movie coming out soon?

I'm just curious in the event that I get pulled in to see it.

Ben Mezrich asked me if I would co-operate with him for "The Accidental Billionaires" and I declined after considering his history of twisting characters in "Bringing Down The House," which got made into 21. I didn't hear from anyone after that, and my name was mis-spelled in his book.

I would give him a break if his more recent published opinions didn't sound like a more mature and intellectually vailed version of the very same attitude.

Exactly. This is what the Facebook/Zuckerberg apologists aren't getting. I think most people can get behind giving people a second chance, but Zuckerberg is basically doing a "git rebase newMotivation". None of the behaviors seem to be changing, just the claimed reason for them.

In 2006 Facebook was way more than just a side project. Zuckerberg had already dropped out of Harvard to work on it full time and had raised investment if I recall correctly.

The main link on this thread is incorrect. The IMs are from 2004, not 2006.

Agreed, the New Yorker mentioned 2006 as the date when the IMs were discovered and the boingboing article screwed it up.


I find it humorous that while Zuckerberg is:

* offering the information, but hasn't actually leaked it

* offering phonebook / directory type info, which is semi germane to the actual purpose of the site, especially in the early days

Meanwhile Boingboing is making public a recording of a private conversation held over IM.

I've read all these IMs before. IIRC, they were in the trial transcripts.

I believe at least one of the "FRIEND"s is Adam D'Angelo, former Facebook CTO and now founder of Quora.

In any case, it's not as if Boing Boing hacked into Zuckerberg's computer to get these. They're freely available.

Actually, they were under seal in ConnectU, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc., and Mark's attorneys fought very hard to keep them that way. They're only freely available now because they were leaked.

Given my personal stake in it all I'd like to know what the rest of the still-unpublished ones say.

Meanwhile Boingboing is making public a recording of a private conversation held over IM.

Yeah, but it's okay because the Boingboing offices are not bugged and you didn't get to hear the editors say that they were going to fuck Zuckerberg in the ear.

Didn't they just fuck him in the ear by publishing the stupid comments?

I'd hate to have people criticize everything I said or did when I was 19 years old. I said and did some pretty immature things, hell I had only been living away from my parents for a year. 19->23 was a time of big change for me and I think it is for most people.

Poor Zuck.

You mean there are still people out there who who have doubts whether Zuckerberg is a sociopath with zero ethics? Why would that be?

I don't know about other people, but I have doubts. I'm actually willing to bet Zuckerberg is very far from being a sociopath. Most of the "damning" stories about him are of the same caliber as this story. And this article, IMO, proves nothing.

So he joked around about privacy in IMs 4 years ago. We don't have any context, we don't know almost any of the surrounding circumstances. In fact, since people are publishing these IMs but aren't publishing reports of him leaking actual data, I'm willing to bet these IMs really were just jokes.

Other stories are similarly void of content.

The truth is, I know almost no one who I'd consider a sociopath with zero ethics. The chance against Zuckerberg being one is pretty small. The chance is much higher that the media have chosen to focus on him because he is: a) rich b) powerful and c) made some moves that some people didn't like in regards to privacy.

You're wrong.

There are, in fact, published reports of him actually breaking into Crimson reporters' private FAS (Harvard) e-mail accounts with information he gleaned from Facebook. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-hacked-in...

You don't know anyone you'd consider a sociopath with zero ethics because the vast majority of people aren't. Just the same, the people who up hugely successful by most people's standards, which is to say "rich," have a much higher probability of having gotten there at someone else's expense.

Just the same, the people who up hugely successful by most people's standards, which is to say "rich," have a much higher probability of having gotten there at someone else's expense.

You're wrong. Or at least, we have no reason to believe that you're right, other than small-mindedness borne of jealousy and self-righteousness.

There are countless stories of well-known and incredibly wealthy software CEOs such as Bill Gates and Larry Ellison crushing their competition, sometimes in ways that went beyond what was necessary to merely succeed. Outside of software, you only need to look at the financial sector to see rich people who got to their present position at the expense of others.

I don't think my comment was small-minded at all!

There are also countless stories of rich people who are very nice and got where they are through hard work and creating a lot of value for their customers, investors, and employees. But you didn't choose to focus on them. Why not?

"There are also countless stories of rich people who are very nice..."

Enterprise is great--I'm a capitalist, too--but who are you kidding? If all it took to get rich and create value was niceness, I'm pretty sure Hacker News would be largely unnecessary.

Seriously? You're going to make the leap from me saying that there are lots of rich people who are nice and create value to accusing me of saying that niceness is all that's required to get rich and create value? You really can't see the vast gulf between the two statements?

I take issue with your original statement because I think it's bullshit based on nothing. The laziest thing to do is just assume that all rich people got that way by screwing someone over. There are bad people at all levels of society, and I have no data to lead me to believe it's any more prevalent at higher levels of wealth. I doubt you have any data either. Feel free to post it if you do, but otherwise, this just seems like another empty, jealous rant against the rich.

I totally agree with you that there are some rich people who have earned their wealth. I never disputed that. My point, if you read carefully, is that they're rare. You asked why I didn't focus on them, and it's because it's hard to think of any examples of business titans who are known for their hard work ethic and nothing else. For example, I might have said Michael Dell, but it turns out that he just paid off the SEC to remain CEO of his company after it was discovered that 75% of Dell's 2007 (I think) revenue came from illegal anti-competitive payoffs from Intel to not use AMD chips.

What I said (which also happens to be what I meant) was that there was a higher probability that someone with a vast sum of money had reached their level of wealth by harming someone relative to someone without that same level of wealth. I didn't say "all rich people." And I gave some examples to support my point.

An example to support your point would be someone like Warren Buffet, who doesn't have the kind of reputation that Gates and Ellison have earned for themselves. He proceeded to amass his fortune, to the best of my knowledge, slowly and as ethically as one could hope for. I have a lot of respect for hard-working and successful people like Buffet, but also those who are worth a fraction of what he is.

On the other hand, I generally don't have a lot of respect for people who start off on the assumption that I am small-minded and jealous, and then go from there. If you want to make a point here that's fine, just don't pretend like I've said something that I didn't.

Maybe the difference in our opinion is our definition of rich. If you define rich as only those who are in the top 10 richest people in the world, then maybe you have a point (though I'm still skeptical). If you use a more widely accepted measure of rich or wealthy (say $5m in liquid assets) you include hundreds of thousands of people in this country alone. And you never hear anything about almost any of those people. They live quiet lives, building their business and spending time with their families. Who wants to write about that? So journalists cover the flashy bastards instead, which skews your perception. Read some research that's been done on the wealthy as a group before you go making conclusions based on a handful of the most extreme outliers at the top.

I suppose this has validity, but on the other hand, there are plenty of cut throats in the '2nd largest car dealership in Idaho' level.

Yes, but are there more than in the general population? That's what we're debating. And I'm skeptical that's the case, but even more skeptical that the claimant has any data to make such a strong claim.

Sure, I think that's how they get to these positions. Aggressive ambition and a lack of concern for the wellbeing of others relative to one's own wellbeing pays off. It seems pretty obvious to me.

I'm surprised such an ad hominem got so many upvotes. For much of human history the only way to get rich was to do so at someone else' expense. pg talks about this in one of his essays. As he mentions in said essay, the internet has changed this a bit but you can bet that some people are going to go with the tried and true methods of getting rich (e.g. Robert Mugabe).

The statement you quoted may be correct as stated, but it strikes me as a tautology (i.e. if you're not rich then of course you didn't "get there" at someone else' expense, you didn't "get there" at all).

I remember a somewhat disturbing piece I read a couple years ago that pointed out that a disproportionate number (as compared to the general population) of C*O's are borderline (the article used the term "subcriminal") sociopaths.

I wouldn't find that surprising. In the current world, the only thing most big companies ever have to care about is the bottom line. Given that, it's unsurprising that people willing to do anything to get what they want would rise to the top.

Without a citation, it's impossible verify your claim, but even with one, I'd be dubious about a 'piece' that purports to 'point out' (read: make an authoritative claim as proof) that... well, let's just say I don't think you read an article that was grounded in verifiable facts.

Okay, so he joked around about being a total sleazebag who can't be trusted with people's private data, or be trusted to do the right thing. Now that he's in control of millions of people's private data, WOW, those 'jokes' are SO FUNNY! He should retire and become a stand up comic, it's the BEST!!!

I won't say he's a sociopath. But he's a guy with too much power. And we all know : Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That's the main reason I don't like facebook.

Absolute power corrupts more thoroughly and more quickly when applied to someone with a lack of ethics.

But it seems he was corrupt even before he attained much power...

do you know mark zuckerberg? have you spent any meaningful time with him?

"a sociopath with zero ethics" is a hell of a label to hang on him when you only know him through a few articles you've read on the internet.

Not just that, I know the CEO and founder of Facebook through a legacy and record of actions. Actions speak louder than articles on the internet, and perhaps even louder than personal impressions based on having a beer with someone or a conference, or whatever you're talking about.

Nobody in the public eye such as this is ever going to 'spend meaningful time' with an equal amount of people as the number whom will choose to cast a judgement on their character. So, this will have to suffice. If he has a problem with that, please ask him to sell out and go away.

Or maybe not. code duck is sorry if he was mean.

You've judged him as a sociopath by his actions, not his intentions.

In other words, you assume he's actually a sociopath, instead of assuming that perhaps the narrow view we see from 72-point headlines doesn't paint an accurate picture of the whole man.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-observer_bias

actors tend to attribute the causes of their behavior to stimuli inherent in the situation, while observers tend to attribute behavior to stable dispositions of the actor

i'm hardly a zuckerberg apologist (see previous comments during the whole facebook privacy hoo-hah). but wanted to point out, really, that calling someone a "sociopath with zero ethics" based on a few articles without actually knowing the guy is likely unreliable way to judge someone.

I read this more as a young kid said something stupid over IM, maybe to be cool, maybe not, but people -- especially young people -- say dumb shit all the time to be cool, even if they don't mean what the say. Yes, he's now the CEO of a hugely influential company, but to apply those comments to his current situation is to take the comments somewhat out of context.

Are they relevant? Sure. Are they as relevant as if he said them two weeks ago? Not even close. People blow this stuff way out of proportion. Does anyone REALLY think that he'd leak personal information now the way he talked about in these IMs?

He has had to grow up a lot faster than most people his age, and he has handled it pretty well, as far as I'm concerned. People love to flip out over this stuff. Sometimes it's worth flipping out over. I don't see this as one of those times.

UGH. Read the thing in its entirety and that Aaron guy comes off as too helpful and naive.

Fuck, you can tell from the tone Zuck takes with him. Zuck is nice when he needs something, and cold as ice when he knows he did something.

Pretty fucking sad and annoying at the same time. UGH!


Oh, the parent is ThinkComp/Aaoron! My sympathies dude. Too bad, you're a typical flat-footed computer programmer; how come you haven't seen this guy for what he is the moment he told you to take down the ads featuring his site? then he returns to you, repeatedly, for advice, help, testing, feedback and insight. Why did you allow that?]

In reply to your edit:

I distrusted him immediately because of Facemash, and I refused to work with him directly accordingly. The situation I faced was a classic Catch-22. Had I agreed to help him with the project he refused to tell me about (which was actually my own), I would have been named (just like Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz) in a federal civil lawsuit by the ConnectU team, which I had no knowledge of, and I would have been complicit in helping Mark run Facebook in a way I didn't agree with. By refusing to co-operate I became a target instead.

As someone else here said, "I've never met a sociopath before." Well, before January 8, 2004, neither had I. It's pretty hard to know what the "right" thing to do is in that kind of situation.

I am "that Aaron guy," and it was my job to be helpful. At the time, I ran the only entrepreneurship club at Harvard available to undergraduates.

In retrospect, I was naive, but so was Mark. Ironically, I think he underestimated the value of having friends, and the negative value of having enemies.


I see you settled for $65MM, that's about fair, even if the lawyers take half of it.

Next time, please get yourself a human hound to sniff out people. You seem like an all too nice and too trusting person.

I was not part of ConnectU so I didn't settle for $65 million, actually. I settled separately.

Impressive that they could put together such a detailed timeline so long after the fact.

Irony is, between the lawsuits, the disclosures, and the movie, now nobody has more embarrassing information about them available to the public than Mark Zuckerberg.

I'm a nice guy, but honestly, if I was a kid with that much power, I probably would have acted the same. People were feeding him their emails, photos, personal info straight to his servers. And they still ARE!

Still, he might have still been treating Facebook as a goofy side project at this point. And IM chat doesn't express jest or joking around.

Call a spade a spade.

This is a really weak argument, to say the very least.

For one thing, just because a lot of kids are immature doesn't mean that they have a license to break the law. Joking obviously isn't a violation of the law, but breaking into private e-mail accounts is (18 USC 1030).

For another, Mark had already been formally disciplined by the Administrative Board for Facemash when he wrote these, so he clearly knew better.

Aruging that Facebook has the right to misuse people's content just because they provide it is clearly wrong.

In addition, there are five people including myself who ultimately filed legal action against Mark and/or Facebook, Inc. because of what happened at Harvard.

Lastly, at roughly the same age, I ran the same core product at the same time in the same place with the same name with the same people's information, and I didn't do that. I didn't joke with my friends about it, I didn't make fun of my users, I certainly never intended to abuse people's trust, and I never did. One of those users was Mark and I have his SHA-1 password hash sitting in my database, as well as his cell phone number--but I'm not going to share it with anyone, nor have I ever. Clearly it's possible to run such an operation in a different way than Mark.

"Call a spade a spade" indeed.

Jobs and Wozniak made hardware to steal long distance. Blekko founder Rich Skrenta wrote the first PC virus. YC founder RTM wrote the 'Morris Worm' that took down the internet in 1988. MySpacer Tom Anderson and Napster/Plaxo/Facebooker Sean Parker each had FBI visits (at least) for their teenage unauthorized computer access transgressions.

There are people who are sticklers for every rule from an early age, and then there are those who do impressive things. The overlap is very small.

Did he argue that he has the right to misuse content, or did he simply joke about it?

People joke about doing things they would never dream of doing. Heck, people lie about doing things to show off to people all the time - especially when younger (though not exclusively, by any means)

Are there any examples of him actually misusing this data?

Whenever people start accusing other people of crimes, including citing the section of the US Code that they broke, I flip the bozo bit.

You are too personally invested in this situation to act rationally.

Maybe he dropped out of Harvard before he took Business Ethics.

Heh. Sorry for all the downvotes, I thought it was funny...

I agree with you. If the shit I say in IM to my friends get published, it would look exactly like this. It doesn't mean I would ever do anything like that. It's just excited bragging. Some guys brag about women, money, physical accomplishments. Nerds like me brag about stupid computer tricks we can do...

You should consider changing your IM habits, if you expect to ever be in a situation where someone somewhere wants to sue you.

I'm a nice guy, but honestly, if I was a kid with that much power, I probably would have acted the same.

That might be true AND still not excuse a given behavior.

If I had vast power, I too might do a number of unpleasant things too... It's up to you to folks stop me... AND I'm OK stopping someone else at the same time...

Meh. I canceled my Facebook account years ago.

But these IMs are just typical of the immature little kid he was back then. We all say and do stupid things when we're that age. It's not a big deal.

relax everyone, diaspora's developer release is tomorrow!

"Addendum (8/30): To clarify, September 15 will be our open-source developer release. At that time, we will open up our github repository, publish our roadmap, and shift our development style to be more community oriented. We intend on launching a consumer facing alpha in October. Join our mailing list to get an invite." via http://www.joindiaspora.com/2010/08/26/overdue-update.html

Nothing to add about those IMs. His friends suck though.

To be fair, it is slightly dumb to give some site your real name, university e-mail, your address, etc.

I remember back when I signed up with a fake username, to be requested to sign up with my real name and uni e-mail, etc. No wonder I haven't really used Facebook much at all.

But, whatever he said in the IMs is just "normal" that is, just something we all might have said. So, I do not think that the lesson here is as jacquesm suggests, but rather that we might be entering an age and time when the gods of politics, commerce, science, and whatever other field are shown to be just normal people more vividly.

I don't think they're 'damning'. 22-year-olds say silly things. People use facetious language and braggadoccio in private conversations that shouldn't be taken literally.

And even if his statements are taken literally, if the student info had been volunteered without a promise of strict single-purpose confidentiality, students should have expected their info might be shared for any legal purpose at the discretion of the site proprietor. That's why explicit privacy policies are important; at least in the US, without a promise to the contrary, almost anything goes.

To sum up in 5 words what many here said in more: "Great Powers imply Great Responsibilities."

At 19, Zuck had big powers and no responsibility. It's not excusable, and I'm not sure it's forgiveable either.

Now, Mark Zuckerberg has immense power. I doubt that he's responsible enough to make up for it. I even doubt that anyone can be responsible enough.

And if the responsibility needed to wield the power of Facebook doesn't exist, well, maybe wielding it at all is not excusable, or even forgiveable.

Bet Zuckerberg is wishing that Schmidt's "let kids change their names" idea was implemented a few years ago.

Really? Personally I'd guess Zuckerberg will never even read this story... and if he did I doubt he'd care.

No, not really.

I was just pointing out that Schmidt's comment has some credibility to it. The only reason it doesn't apply to Zuckerberg specifically is because of his powerful position, however the situation is the same.

Ok, fair enough :)

I'd just like to say this: instead of immediately "going to fuck them", he went and created one of the largest websites in the world. Sounds like a much better outcome (at least for him) to me.

Where is the confirmation? IMO, he would have to admit he did it. Maybe I missed that in the article.

IMs are not PGP signed or anything like that. It could have been someone pretending to be him. Maybe he left his laptop unlocked and a roommate or friend typed those words as a joke. There are hundreds of things that may have happened. Zuck may have nothing to do with it.

Don't rush to judgment. Anyone can pretend to be anyone on the Internet.

In Vargas's story, Zuckerberg admits he wrote the IMs and says he "absolutely" regrets them.


I think that this is a warning to all of us. Please, be a respectful and civil net citizen. If you troll around like crazy it may come up in the future and come back to hunt you. P.S. I have done my share of occasional trolling and silly comments. I don't think that they were offensive though.

These are 22 yo words, at the time he was still uncertain of the future as all of us have been at some point in our lives. It will be wrong and kinda unfair to hold these words against him.

I've said much worse things, both online and offline. These are a teenager's IM's. Nothing to see here, move on.

Were these IMs obtained from server logs, or from participants in the conversations?

Haven't these been circulating for years?

I've really wanted to avoid joining the list of friends who have expunged their Facebook identities. This makes it very tempting to jump ship, though.

Why? Either you are comfortable with the amount of personal information you are publishing on Facebook's systems or you are not.

If you are comfortable about the personal information you are giving them then I don't see why out-of-context IMs from years ago change how you feel about your actions.

If you're not comfortable with your own sharing then what the heck are you doing?

The temptation to leave Facebook is motivated by principle, not pragmatism. Of course whatever personal information I have submitted to websites over the years has been snooped at some point or other. That doesn't make mean we should meekly accept such behavior.

EDIT: To clarify -- I am comfortable with the personal information I have shared. Such comfort does not imply permission for the holder of that information to snoop it.

The line between comfortable and uncomfortable can change based on one's perception of the company holding the data. That perception is highly subject to the perception of the guy running it.

though, with comments like that is the data really expunged? Would you trust that your account and information is actually removed? Or conveniently archived for future use?

remembers me the latest xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/792/

I've definitely joked around just like that. This means nothing about Zuck's character.

Can anyone explain the context and relevance of the IMs? Is he being sued for privacy violations or some such, so is it just a random/in general smear?

Leave him alone already!

I hardly call the IMs "Damning" considering how he's continued to grow into one of the most powerful people in the tech industry.

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