MENLO PARK, Calif. — Sheryl Sandberg isn’t worried about the elephant in the room.
Facebook’s No. 2 exec made a show of meeting with journalists at the company’s sprawling campus here on Wednesday — but refused to answer any questions about an explosive report that Mark Zuckerberg had blown off privacy concerns in a series of 2012 emails despite a freshly signed consent decree with federal regulators.
In one email exchange from April 2012, Zuckerberg asked employees about an app that claimed to have built a database that could display the personal information of millions of Facebook users, regardless of the users’ privacy settings.
While Zuckerberg asked if Facebook should do anything to stop the data from being displayed, he failed to suggest any wider probe into other apps that might be doing the same thing, according to The Wall Street Journal.
As she appeared for a half-hour Q&A session at Facebook’s first-ever “International Press Day,” Sandberg oozed admiration for journalists, even as she failed to acknowledge Wednesday’s blockbuster report.
“What you all do is really important,” Sandberg said in her opening remarks. “You are keeping people informed, you are holding us accountable.”
Nevertheless, Sandberg went on to insist on a rigid format for questions, accepting only a handful from a pool that were submitted over the previous weekend — days before the latest privacy story broke.
Standing in front of a poster that asked “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Sandberg answered softball queries on topics like her recent trip to Thailand, girls in STEM and Facebook’s push toward messaging.
The 49-year-old billionaire did take one question on Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes’ scathing op-ed calling for the breakup of the tech giant but didn’t stray from the company’s bland talking points.
“I think there are real concerns about the size and power of tech companies,” Sandberg said, adding that the “regulatory framework needs to be more robust” and that Facebook is “working hard with regulators on laws in those areas.”
Following the panel, when a few journalists attempted to approach Sandberg and ask follow-up questions, she put in an earpiece, started talking into it and walked away.
A rep for Facebook blamed Sandberg’s tight-lipped approach on the “limited amount of time” she had for the Q&A session, saying that Sandberg’s team had to prioritize which questions to ask. The spokesperson instead passed along a statement from Facebook.
“We have fully cooperated with the FTC’s investigation to date and provided tens of thousands of documents, e-mails and files. At no point did Mark or any other Facebook employee knowingly violate the company’s obligations under the FTC consent order nor do any e-mails exist that indicate they did.”
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