If you’re concerned about how Facebook wields its users’ data, Antonio García-Martínez wants you to know it was “partially my fault.”
García-Martínez joined the company in 2011, a year before its IPO, and for a time oversaw the ad targeting system that helps it make money hand over fist. On the latest Too Embarrassed to Ask, he joined Recode’s Kara Swisher to talk about how much has changed since his 2016 book about working at Facebook, “Chaos Monkeys,” and to dispel some common misconceptions.
One of those falsehoods is that Facebook is in any danger of losing its users.
“Here’s the reality: Most people don’t care about privacy,” García-Martínez said. “Media elites care about it, underemployed Eurocrats care about it. And the entire privacy-industrial complex — there’s an entire set of very loud voices who are constantly beating the drum and building media careers around this.
“For those who doubt, here’s a pop quiz: When in the past two or three months did Facebook reach the highest point in app rankings in the Android app store?” he asked. “Literally the day after the #deletefacebook hashtag went viral.”
On the new podcast, García-Martínez also evaluated how Facebook has handled a series of controversies since the 2016 election, including the Cambridge Analytica affair that culminated in CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. García-Martínez said he agrees with the view of privacy Zuckerberg espoused in a 2017 manifesto; community and sharing experiences with other people are a “primal need,” but privacy is not.
“Any app — and I’m using ‘Facebook’ broadly to mean whatever social media thing we have — whatever the face of social media is, people are more than willing to sacrifice this abstract notion of privacy that Brussels bureaucrats care about, in pursuit of this community thing,” he said.
García-Martínez also argued that he’s increasingly coming around to the oft-cited parallels between the smartphone and the printing press. The economic, political and religious disruptions of Gutenberg’s press “ushered in a century of bloodshed” in Europe, and the cure was the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.
“We had standards around editorship and objective truth, we created this notion of an encyclopedia — expertise!” he said. “Totemic, reference knowledge: Go to a library, and that’s the truth. We all converged on this paradigm.”
“I really do think the smartphone is, in some sense, undoing what Gutenberg and the Enlightenment created,” García-Martínez added. “I’m not sure what the answer is. I think it may be the case that we just continue to live in this ‘fake news’ world.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.