"This model can feel opaque, and we're all distrustful of systems we don't understand. Sometimes this means people assume we do things that we don't do."
That's Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, writing in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece on Friday to mark the 15th anniversary of the social network. It's the editorial's most substantial defense against criticisms of the company, and it's essentially true. When people can't see for themselves that everything's on the up and up, some will infer all sorts of shenanigans going on behind the curtain, even when there's nothing underhanded going on at all.
That said, Zuckerberg is asking for the benefit of the doubt in his editorial, but he has very little credibility to make such a request. His editorial reads less like an explanation of the way Facebook works and more like a PR play to tweak the press narrative surrounding the company.
For the unfamiliar, Facebook has been under fire for privacy issues after a data breach that allowed consulting firm Cambridge Analytica (which worked for Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the pro-Brexit Leave.EU organization) to access the personal data of some 70 million Facebook users. As if the breach itself weren't bad press enough, Facebook is reportedly facing a record fine from the Federal Trade Commission over it. And technically, that fine won't be for the breach itself so much as it will be for the company violating a 2011 settlement with the FTC over previous charges that it deceived consumers by failing to keep its promises to protect their privacy.