Mark Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American Entrepreneur known for co-founding social-networking site Facebook alongside Eduardo Saverin. He currently serves as Facebook's chairman, chief executive officer, and is the controlling shareholder. Zuckerberg took an interest to computers at an early age, even at a young age developing his own messaging system "Zucknet" that his family would use within the house and also at his father's dental practice. He then went on to attend Harvard University to pursue his interest in computers, but dropped out after his sophomore year in order to devote all of his time to his new company, Facebook. In the years following Zuckerberg's departure from Harvard, Facebook began to quickly grow, amounting to 1 million users in the first year, and gaining interest from many companies that wanted to advertise on the social-networking site. Over the years, Zuckerberg quickly became one of the world's most powerful people as Facebook grew to be one of, if no the, most popular social-networking platforms in existence. Along with Zuckerberg and Facebook's growth, though, came many scandals and ethical issues. Zuckerberg was put in a very interesting position, for he was at the foreground of the social media era. The situations he was put in and the decisions he made set a precedent for other social media platforms, whether good or bad. These decisions and the subsequent consequences proved to be very important for society though, because they raised many questions about what is and is not ethical for social media platforms to do.
Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984 in White Plains, New York to two parents Karen and Edward Zuckerberg. Mark had three sisters and they were brought up together in Dobbs Ferry, New York in a Reform Jewish Household. Zuckerberg started writing software in middle school when his parents hired a private tutor to teach him programming. Zuckerberg attended highschool at Ardsley High School and transferred to Philips Exeter Academy two years later. Zuckerberg would excel in school winning many academic prizes in areas such as mathematics, astronomy, physics, and classical studies. He was also the captain of the fencing team. Zuckerberg would often develop games for his friends using art that they provided. Zuckerberg worked under the company name Intelligent Media Group during highschool and built a music player called Synapse Media Player which used machine learning to learn the listening patterns of users.
Cambridge Analytica Scandal
The Cambridge Analytica Facebook Scandal began in March of 2018, when a whistleblower came forward with the information that Cambridge Analytica had purchased Facebook date on tens of millions of Americans without their consent in order to help elect Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. This sparked conversation over social-media privacy and what is morally okay to share. The issue of transparency in information technology was also brought to the foreground, for Facebook had willingly sold millions of users data without giving the users any knowledge or hint that their personal information would be shared. Zuckerberg had given the go ahead to Facebook's data scientists to sell this information, later claiming that he saw nothing wrong with the decision at the time. Because of this whistleblower, Zuckerberg was called to testify before congress(see video below), thus sparking many discussions about internet privacy. Though the selling of personal date to Cambridge Analytica was most likely morally wrong to do in the first place, it was necessary to open the public's eyes to what information privacy really is and how detrimental and impactful in can be on society. Zuckerberg's failure to see the fault in selling this information has lead to many other social-networking giants to know not to follow in his footsteps. for they saw how detrimental the scandal was to Facebook from an economic standpoint. The scandal has also lead to Zuckerberg promising to increase privacy standards with both Facebook and Instagram in order to gain back users trust and create a new standard for information privacy. At first glance, Zuckerberg's original thought that this was an okay thing to do is quite concerning. Especially in the current era of social media, it is clear that he made the wrong decision. But one must note that Zuckerberg has been in unfounded territory for much of his career, as Facebook was one of the first social media giants. His mistakes, such as the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, have definitely set a precedent for how data analytics within social media should be treated in the future.
In 2012 Facebook was found to conduct psychological tests on users without their knowledge. This knowledge came out around the same time that Zuckerberg had sent out emails saying that he was unsure about the ethics of selling data taken from Facebook without the knowledge of users, but that he could not see anything wrong to come of it in the future (something I'm sure he later regretted). The number of users who were manipulated comes is thought to be 689,003. Facebook data scientists removed either all of the positive or negative posts from the users' feed in order to see how the users' moods were effected. This experiment lead to talk about how ethical the tests were. According to Facebook's data use policy, which 100% of users have definitely read and agreed to, the site can be used for testing and data collection. So, legally, Facebook was able to perform this test, but was it ethical of them? Technically, Facebook was transparent about the fact that testing may be done. But the specific users who were tested were not individually notified, meaning they probably never knew it was happening. When most in person studies are done on people, there is some form of ethics board that will decide whether or not the experiment can be done without harming the participants of the study. Unlike this, Facebook data scientists had a much easier path to being able to conduct their study. The study even showed that those who only say negative posts on their timeline themselves produced negative posts, showing a change in their online behavior and probably in-person mood. Is it ethical for Facebook to alter hundred of thousands of peoples emotions without their knowledge? Most people would say probably not. But again, I believe that this experiment was necessary to open the public's eyes up to what social-networking cites are capable of, and it is important to debate the morality of what these sites do on a daily basis.
Ethical Issues of Mark Zuckerberg
As stated, in 2012 Zuckerberg himself had said he could not see any ethical or moral issues to come out of what he was doing with Facebook data. He was a pioneer in social media, and had to make many decisions that he had no prior basis for. In situations where new waters are being tested, such as many of the situations Zuckerberg found himself in, mistakes are made. Zuckerberg may have made a mistake allowing the psychological tests on hundreds of thousands of users, but in the end it sparked conversation about social-networking and how it is important to know the sites can do without one's direct knowledge. Later on, with the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, Zuckerberg admitted to his mistake in selling tens of millions of users date to Cambridge Analytica, and it lead to his policy to increase the privacy of user information on both Facebook and Instagram. In the end, these "mistakes" Zuckerberg made may seem extremely unethical and immoral, but they were necessary in order for society to move forward and learn in an increasingly technology dependent world. It is very possible that Zuckerberg will continue to come across situations in which he is unsure of what to do, or in which he makes the wrong decision, but it is now evident that he knows he needs to be more careful with both the data he collects from users and the ways in which he allows his data scientists to observe and manipulate users. It is also evident that Zuckerberg will need to make Facebook more transparent about any future testing or experimenting, for the users in prior situations had no idea what was happening to them, and it resulted in major manipulation in their lives.