The Facebook Debacle: Has”Lean In” Gone Too Far?

Money and power strikes again.  Recent revelations point to the fact that the social media company Facebook knew that YOUR information was being compromised and used without your permission for purposes related to influencing elections — like maybe the 2016 American presidential election — and that it did little to nothing to remedy the situation until it was called out by a whistleblower earlier this week.  Five days after this news hit the “wire,” Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, FINALLY spoke out, and to date, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has made no public statement.

Yes, this is the same Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the book Lean In, which became a sensation partially because of her access to the Facebook marketing platform.   The theme of Lean In, you will recall, is that women need to aggressively pursue their businesses in order to climb the corporate ladder and take their rightful places in the C suites of business.  Young women lawyers across American and the world embraced the Lean In concepts without much consideration of the costs of that strategy.  Getting to the corner office was the goal.

It appears we are seeing some of the costs of “leaning in.”  Facebook leaned in and grew exponentially between 2004, when it was founded, and today, when it is one of the most financially successful businesses in the world.  It didn’t get that successful and that big by posting your messages on your FB page.  It got that successful and that big by selling the data gleaned from your FB pages and posts.  Yes, selling it, without having effective controls on how that data was used.  Those are potentially big costs to your privacy and big costs to our national security.

And, there also is a big cost to Facebook as the reaction of abandoning FB accounts grows in response to this information.  Mark Zuckerberg reportedly lost $9 billion in just a few days over these revelations and as Facebook stock prices fell.  That’s right.  “B” as in “billion. ” But, as one of the richest people in the world, he can afford it.  As a nation, we cannot.

Does this sound like “leaning in” for money and power with little regard for the consequences?   Sounds that way to me — which is why I have been writing and speaking for years about a cautionary approach to the messages of  Lean In.

Caveat emptor.

And, yes, I recognize the irony of posting this on my Best Friends at the Bar FB account.  It is the informed risk I take to bring you valuable information.


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