Any time that Facebook admits that it has exposed the privacy of millions of its users, it’s sure to gain the attention of the world’s newspapers and tech bloggers.
The latest news is that approximately 6 million Facebook users had
their email addresses or telephone numbers inappropriately shared.
Bad enough, you might think, but when you dig down into how the
breach occurred you realise that the users may *never* have uploaded
those email addresses and contact numbers to Facebook themselves.
Pardon me for being cynical, but it seems somewhat convenient that
Facebook releases the news on Friday afternoon Pacific Time when many
reporters are either looking forward to a weekend away from their
keyboards, or are already shutting down their computers or are even
tucked up in bed.
I was in charge of Facebook’s crisis communications team, I might also
counsel that the best way to minimise fall-out from the announcement you
don’t really want to make is to release it at precisely the same time –
when America’s East coast reporters have left the office for the
weekend, and Europe is already asleep.
The hope would be that by Monday, when the media settles down for
another working week, the story will already seem stale. Facebook is
saying all the right things in an attempt to dampen any flames, saying
(and I believe them) that it has seen “no evidence that the “bug” has
been exploited maliciously”.
It doesn’t do the company any harm either, of course, if they give
the embarrassing announcement a dull title like “Important Message from
Facebook’s White Hat Program”, rather than using words like “Privacy
Breach” or “Sorry, we screwed up”.
It’s called damage limitation. For the Facebook brand, at least.
It’s not called doing your level best to get the issue reported to as
wide an audience as possible.
It’s not the first time that Facebook has made an announcement of a
privacy/security snafu at the best possible time of the week, PR-wise.
For instance, at a near identical time on another Friday (February 15, 2013) earlier this year, the social network announced that malware breached its developers’ systems, exploiting a zero-day Java exploit.
Two announcements that no company ever really wants to make. Both
released at the same time of day, at the same time of the week, to
minimise damage to the social network’s reputation.
Hat’s off to Facebook’s PR team. They’re earning their money.
In all likelihood, they’ll be proving their worth to the company
again. After all, Facebook’s internal mantra is “Move fast and break
Leader at J2TEAM
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