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[dupe] WhatsApp founder: I sold out, but I walked away from $850M when I quit FB (boingboing.net)
57 points by startupflix 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments



Instead of an article about an article the real interview is on Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2018/09/26/exclusive...



> When Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, was asked by U.S. lawmakers in early September if WhatsApp still used end-to-end encryption, she avoided a straight yes or no, saying, “We are strong believers in encryption.”

Wow. That's rather troubling.

EDIT: WhatsApp still claims to use end-to-end encryption. It was probably just a case of Sandberg not knowing the answer.


Even more worrying is "messages will remain end-to-end encrypted. There are no plans to change that."

Doesn't this mean that everything but messages will be open for exploitation? This is clearly why they're already targeting status updates. Once they figure out if you're male or female then the deeper profiling can begin. A sad day.

It's a little like the Evil Maid problem. Mr Zuck has his fingers on the WhatsApp keyboard and you can be sure there's trouble ahead.


But not surprising.


To be honest, I'm not convinced she knows the technicality behind e2e encryption. I never understood what is the value she is bringing to facebook (beside marketing herself very well)


My understanding is that she understands the business side extremely well, i.e. establishing and maintaining relationships with the big advertisers, figuring out what the most lucrative ads platform looks like in the early days, etc.

I agree she probably does not understand the technical side all that well, but that's not her job.


I think you're right, actually. The WhatsApp UI still claims it's end-to-end encrypted and has a key verification feature.


I wouldn’t put bald face lieing beyond facebook, but this doesn’t seem like something important enough for facebook to care about.


You have any proof to back that up, or are you just going to spread FUD and hope the echochamber agrees with you?


The Forbes article was 100x more informative. The mods should IMO swap out the link..

I've shared that link with my "Family" WhatsApp group (there's no chance I'm getting them onto something else though..)


WhatsApp (and Instagram) itself was an acquisition via surreptitious data harvesting through Onavo - the free VPN app meant to "protect" users browsing data [0, 1].

> Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say. The tool shaped Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp and informed its live-video strategy, they say. Facebook used Onavo to build its early-bird tool that tips it off to promising services and that helped Facebook home in on Houseparty.

Apple has now forced Facebook to remove it from the App Store [2]. I'm not sure if data harvesting has stopped. It might have even increased.

[0] https://outline.com/tkzkVb

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14970877

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/22/17771298/facebook-onavo-p...


Just pointlessly trying to exist way past its date of expiry.

Facebook reminds me of Edison pushing his DC power distribution model on everyone. Telling the world nothing else will work. Trying to get them to build an Edison Power station every second block. Coasting on momentum built and wasting everyone's time. Spending huge resources buying out/maligning/litigating the competition. But it all fails. Few people ever needed DC power distribution. At the end of that story Edison says after a series of humilations in public and finally loosing control of his company "I have come to the conclusion that I never did know anything about Electricity".

That moment for Mr.Zuckerberg is fast approaching.


I'm impressed by Acton and Koum. They built a $22bn company, scaled to hundreds of millions of users, became the dominant chat app in the world... all with a tiny team of engineers. Before Facebook acquisition, they were laser-focused on quality and infrastructure instead of gimmicks.

Maybe they made a mistake by selling, but I wouldn't have turned down total financial freedom for me and my family forever.

Whatever. I'll switch to Signal, and watch out for the next thing that these guys work on.


No doubt, A small team can sometimes accomplish amazing things when they don’t have oversight. It’s too bad that the quality will probably stay stagnate.


I hope not to see any moral policing here for selling out. It is difficult to walk away from that kind of money.

Hope not to see indifference caused by false equivalencies.

False equivalencies suck out oxygen and leave no room for nuances or discussions.

I am encouraging my social network to switch from Whatsapp to Signal, but I'll go cold turkey whether they switch or not.


It would not be difficult to argue that the billions of dollars they got from WhatsApp has the potential to do so much more good in the world than hanging on to WhatsApp just to protect the data of the relatively well off.

Let's not kid ourselves. Illicit data collection is frustrating. But it isn't as bad as world hunger or mass diseases, human trafficking, or a myriad of other important issues.

If you get the chance, by all means, "sell out". Just use some of the money to help alleviate some suffering in this world.


You're probably right that for those of us in developed, western nations data collection isn't quite as bad as some other issues (for now).

I do think that in the rest of the world this sort of data collection has severe human rights consequences. What happens when oppressive regimes are willing to sign a contract with any of the dozens of adtech companies out there?

Imagine one working with some authoritarian government to help them track people considered some a "risk". It might be a criminal risk at the beginning, but it could easily turn into people using this data to track and spy members of the opposition party. Or even just to track people who have voiced dissent or the people who've only _talked_ to those people.

It goes beyond pure politics, too. What if some entity is trying to crack down on members of a particular religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic group. People who might have been able to hide those well enough may not be able to do so if so much of their online activity is being monitored.


Anyone dissing Acton for 'selling out' is the biggest hypocrite imaginable. You. Would. Too. And even afterward, he fought as long as he reasonably could to keep the promises offered by FB a reality. Once that became too much of a burden for him, he finally gave up and walked away. I think he put in a great fight.


So I won’t diss him for selling out for two reasons: A) Id possibly so some questionable things for $1b and B) he looks like he did put up a fight.

That said, we all lost when WhatsApp was acquired by FB. I don’t think I stand a chance migrating friends off the platform, so despite closing my FB account a long time ago, they’ve still got me. So should we so quickly say “it’s fine, we’d all do the same”? It’s fine to not want to be a hypocrite, but isn’t this an enormously broken model we could be critical of?

The tech youth of today mostly dream of starting up some fancy company, selling out for billions, and throwing their users under the bus en masse, no?


>'Anyone dissing Acton for 'selling out' is the biggest hypocrite imaginable."

Yeah that's not what hypocrisy means at all. Hypocrisy is when someone's actions contradict their own stated beliefs. Hypocrisy is not based on the hypothetical. If I were a staunch privacy advocate however and sold my company to FB, a company with zero regard for privacy then this would be hypocritical behavior. Conversely if I were someone who didn't value privacy and took FB money I would not be a hypocrite at all.


i don’t think you could unequivocally say “you would too”. You’d say the same thing if Evan Spiegel sold out to fb as well but he didn’t. You can argue about whether that was wise but it proves there are people that wouldn’t take the fat paycheck from fb


I hope not to see any moral policing here for selling out.

Well, one of the things "FU money" allows you to say "fuck you" to in addition to bad employers are the moral police that pretend they wouldn't do the exact same thing in the same situation.

Start a commune, help solve world hunger, do what you like with your "ill-gotten" gains, but don't pretend you'd be so quick to walk away on principle alone.


>"I hope not to see any moral policing here for selling out. It is difficult to walk away from that kind of money"

Let's be clear, it's probably not that hard after you've already pocketed the first two billion.


"[Brian Acton], we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price” -- Winston Churchill, I think.


>Hope not to see indifference caused by false equivalencies.

I'll try to come up with a 'close equivalence'.

>Person makes Billions of dollars by giving his organization to a questionable company. This includes the personal information of users, the social infrastructure, and employees.

I am a 10%er who saves literally $60,000 USD/yr, let alone my wife is a Dr. with her own income. I cannot see myself selling out for petty money. Money cannot buy happiness when you can buy almost everything you want.

My side projects look to profit as profit as a capitalistic indicator of beneficial change.

So I dont understand, what is this person going to do with the money? If you sell out, you better be doing significantly better things with that money.

All of this is IMO, life philosophy, and the culture around me.


I just don't get the narrative. I can appreciate walking away from, and not being part of, something you don't like. But at that point the damage was already done. Seemingly they main thing that was achieved here was making the cost of the acquisition $850M cheaper for Facebook.


I read the $850m being well after acquisition. It was an attempt at hush money, and he didn’t sign on. He’s a multi-billionaire, and values being able to speak opening over a bit more money.


In support of that point, from the article: "He also reveals that when he left the company, he declined an offere [sic] of $850,000,000 in unvested stock in exchange for signing a nondisclosure agreement that would have kept him from discussing any of this."


Always strikes me as somewhat amusing - or not really - how someone like mr. Doctorow apparently feels a pressing need to publish under full live Google supervision, here in the guise of amp, fonts, and gstatic.


If he felt so bad be should have stayed and gotten the money for charity.


Take the money and get criticised on HN for taking the money [1]. Don't take the money and get criticised by different people on HN for not taking the money [2].

It's a tough life being a tech billionaire.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18173181 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18201177


My thoughts too. Get the money, and do something useful with it. It was an expensive and still pretty meaningless gesture. Now, maybe he didn’t want to spend more time at FB and bought his freedom with that money. Perfectly fine, but please don’t spin it like some morally applaudable act.


He already did. He'd gotten a few billion dollars out of the acquisition by then. He invested $50 million of that into the Signal Foundation, and I would hope he will invest more in the future.


Even taking the $850m and setting it on fire is $850m that Facebook doesn’t have to buy the next Instagram.


I'm going to be cynical again, but everyone is justifying every single action they perform as something morally applaudable nowadays.

example that I see every day: taking the train for convenience, but spinning it as "saving the planet"


Yup, you sold out, made billions, secured your life, then bit the hand that feeds you and then pretend to stand for something. Donate the entire pay off from Facebook to privacy groups and then I will listen to you.


I have a theory: I believe tweeting #deletefacebook was a firable offense and, upon being fired, he lost whatever vesting remained. He didnt knowingly do this. Almost every company has similar terms in place. I certainly wouldnt hand over another billion dollars to someone who did that my company after I paid him $15bn.


Acton was not fired, he tweeted #deletefacebook after he already quit:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Acton


Your theory is wrong




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