Monday, May 24, 2010

Ballmer on Facebook privacy: Zuckerberg one of 'good guys'

Ballmer on Facebook privacy: Zuckerberg one of 'good guys': "Google and Facebook are the ones grappling with high-profile security and privacy problems these days, but Microsoft has been there before, many times, and the issues were clearly on Steve Ballmer's mind during a talk this past week on the company's Redmond campus. And he was in no mood to gloat.
'With all of the opportunity and all of the things we're excited about, and all of the things being created, and all of the world's challenges, we do have to be mindful and work hard to not create more new challenges than we solve,' said the Microsoft CEO, referring to the broader industry, after raising the subjects of security and privacy during the discussion with a small group of reporters, bloggers and university professors.
One of the problems, Ballmer added later, is that 'the bad guys only have to be right once' to cause problems online, while 'the good guys are supposed to be right all the time.'"

That prompted's Evan Hansen to ask an interesting question: Where does Ballmer see Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg fitting into that equation? Here's what Ballmer said:

"Bad guys are bad guys. OK? There are guys who are really trying to innovate and do interesting things where it's complex. It's hard. Mark is a good guy. Are they struggling with a set of issues? Sure, they're struggling with a set of issues, and you should chat with those guys about it. But the notion that people are trying to do innovative thing that do advance the state of the art, both in privacy and in communications, that's kinda the way the system works, and if people don't want to play on their property, they won't play on their property."

The exchange starts at the 2:25 mark in our video above. Microsoft has a minority stake in Facebook and has partnered with the social network on online advertising. So apart from the natural empathy Ballmer would feel, having been there before, it's not a surprise to hear him defend Zuckerberg and his company.

The talk took place Thursday afternoon at Microsoft's Citizenship Accelerator Summit in Redmond. At another point, Ballmer discussed the importance of recognizing different standards of user privacy among different types of Internet users -- contrasting himself with his son, as an example.

Other people "may be less sensitive about some aspects of their privacy than I would be," he said. "In my own case, we will write the tools that make absolutely sure I have absolute privacy. That's my own personal bias."

Ballmer's own Facebook profile was once well known, registered under the name Steven A. Ballmer with a profile pic showing the Microsoft CEO hitting a golf ball off a tee. Based on my searches on Facebook this afternoon, that profile no longer appears to exist, but among the sea of fake Steve Ballmers registered on the site, at least one appears to be legit, with one of the clues being that it's locked down like Fort Knox.

By the way, regarding Facebook's "set of issues," Zuckerbergsignaled in an email to blogger Robert Scoble today that Facebook is preparing to unveil new steps to address the concerns that many people have raised over the popular social networking service's ever-loosening policies governing the privacy of its users.

"I know we’ve made a bunch of mistakes," a candid Zuckerberg wrote in the email to Scoble, "but my hope at the end of this is that the service ends up in a better place and that people understand that our intentions are in the right place and we respond to the feedback from the people we serve."

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