Last week's revelation that Facebook may have allowed a political consulting firm to harvest the data of 87 million users was yet another embarrassing moment for the world's best known social network.
Facebook's response has been incredibly weak. Mark Zuckerberg's lack of leadership is deeply disappointing. Instead of acting like the CEO of a major global enterprise, he's acting more like a spoiled college kid who doesn't understand the impact of his actions. This week, he's going before Congress to explain Facebook's missteps. I hope he's more candid when he faces hard questions from U.S. lawmakers who have been "itching to confront him," according to the Washington Post.
Like many of my colleagues, I'm frankly concerned that Facebook's bad behavior is eroding the reputation of the tech industry. People I speak with at our conferences and summits tell me they are suspending or deleting their Facebook accounts. Most of the business executives I know were already wary of social media, and the recent string of alarming headlines validates their uneasiness.
Facebook's self-inflicted troubles remind us of the old saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." We use Facebook because it's free, and then we're surprised when it doesn't safeguard our interests. As another old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
As a society, it's time for us to acknowledge that our personal data is indeed highly valuable. The organizations that collect our data have a moral responsibility to keep it safe and secure. It doesn't matter if the organization is a bank, the government or a social network.
Every entity that collects, stores, analyzes and distributes our data is responsible for making sure our data is not misused. This is not a new or radical concept. In fact, most companies already practice some form of data stewardship. The truth is that most companies would never allow themselves to be in the position that Facebook finds itself in.
And that's the problem: Despite its high profile, Facebook does not represent the tech industry. Yes, it's a major player. But there are hundreds of thousands of companies in the global tech industry. In many respects, Facebook is an outlier. Its values aren't our values.
As an industry, we'll survive this tempest and we'll be okay. But maybe it's time for us to become a bit more cautious and hold back our applause. Not every high-flying tech company deserves our unconditional praise.