Randi Zuckerberg Learns the Hard Lesson of Facebook Privacy First-Hand

Zuckerberg Privacy

Over the Christmas holiday, Randi Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister and former director of Marketing at Facebook) posted a picture of her family around the kitchen island having fun, and someone else shared the image on Twitter. This was picked up on Buzzfeed and more thoroughly explained on GigaOm amongst other places. Zuckerberg called the person out, saying that she had no idea how they got it, but that sharing the image to Twitter was ‘way uncool’.

The thing that some pointed out was that Zuckerberg had very publicly taken the stance that “Anonymity Online ‘Has To Go Away'”.

Personally I think that the issues of privacy and anonymity are totally unrelated, and what Zuckerberg ran into here is that the default privacy setting for Facebook photos is that when you share something with Friends, then all of THEIR friends get full access. So since Vox Media’s Callie Schweitzer was Facebook friends with Zuckerberg’s sister she saw the picture in her timeline, and thinking it was cool she shared it on her Twitter account.

Then Randi Zuckerberg got notified of a new @ mention on Twitter, only to see the picture she thought was private shared by someone she didn’t personally know. Confused and not pleased, she got a bit ‘snippy’ in her Twitter responses to the posting, and then after understanding the way things happened, noted “I’m just sensitive to private photos becoming “news”.”

After the initial photo and other Tweets had been deleted, Zuckerberg noted: Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency

This got pretty much divided responses:

  • Many people were highly supportive about remembering the ‘human side’ of things, that we need to keep in mind that there is a person on the other end of that Tweet or Facebook share or Tumblr Reblog or whatever.
  • Many other people were adamant that this was ALL about privacy settings and confusing issues with Facebook, to the extent that the sister of the founder and former executive was befuddled about how an image that SHE shared might end up elsewhere.

Some went as far as to question whether Zuckerberg herself had thought to ‘ask permission’ of everyone shown before sharing the image with her friends on Facebook. In my mind that is a fair question – because while she might have assumed that her photo was privately shared amongst her Friends, how does she know that the others in the picture are happy with that level of sharing – let alone with it spreading out to Friends of Friends and so on?

How do you feel about this? When you Share and Tag and Like things on Facebook, do you consider what the potential spread might be of the material? Have you ever asked permission? Where I am very sensitive is with my kids and with their friends, as well as the children of our friends … ok, so just kids in general. Aside from that concern I am generally OK with things, so if someone emails me to connect after many years saying that they saw a Facebook post about me running a marathon on a friend’s timeline (which has happened) … I am fine with that.


About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!