‘The Big Shift’: Internal Facebook Memo Tells Employees to Do Better on Privacy
Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth tells colleagues that privacy matters more than the product experience
On December 22, 2020, Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth wrote his colleagues with a stark message on privacy. “The way we operated for a long time,” he said, “is no longer the best way to serve those who use our products.”
In an internal memo called “The Big Shift,” obtained by Big Technology and first reported here, Bosworth called on Facebook employees to prioritize privacy as they built their products, even to the detriment of the user’s experience. The public’s expectations on privacy were changing, he said, and Facebook’s old approach wasn’t cutting it anymore.
“Global sentiment has clearly shifted to the point that people are willing to accept sacrifices in the quality of the product,” Bosworth wrote. “We need to consider the consumer experience holistically rather than at optimizing for each individual feature.”
Bosworth wrote this at the end of a particularly brutal year for Facebook. The FTC and dozens of state attorneys general had sued the company. People trusted it the least among all social apps. Congress called Mark Zuckerberg to testify multiple times. Incoming President Joe Biden was no fan either. Facebook still had product ambitions, but the ill will toward the company was leading to real repercussions. It needed to change.
Facebook’s public messaging on privacy had been similar to Bosworth’s for years, but it hadn’t meaningfully altered its growth-hungry culture to keep pace with its promises. Bosworth’s memo was notable in that it aimed directly at Facebook’s culture, the only way to generate real progress. He indicated that building the company’s algorithmic ranking and sharing tools shouldn’t come at the expense of user privacy. And at one point, he told employees that the company’s internal privacy tools “will only be effective insofar as we stop fighting them at the cultural level.”