Zuckerberg: We Have ‘This Whole Framework’ In Which Engineers Get A Lot Of Autonomy

Left: Mark Zuckerberg (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images) Right: Computer engineers at work [Shutterstock - Gorodenkoff]

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently implied that engineers for the massive company often have so much individual control that they can internally change the technology behind features without receiving superiors’ feedback and consent.

“If what you’re doing is sensitive to people’s information at all, then of course there are a bunch of checkpoints that you need to do before doing that,” the wunderkind told Stephen Dubner during a Freakonomics interview published Sunday. “But … the idea is that cuts through red tape at the company. So now a given engineer, instead of having to get their manager, and their manager’s manager, and then me, on board with changing the app, they can just do it.”

Zuckerberg said the company established “this whole framework” that permits specific employees, like engineers, the ability to change some code almost unilaterally. He did not explicitly state if he felt this sort of system, whether informal or formal, is a critical problem, or just the appropriate cost of doing business efficiently.

Nevertheless, the comments and the interview were part of a recent quasi-apology tour Zuckerberg has been embarking on. Making himself available for several discussions with the media, Zuckerberg has tried to explain his company’s actions (or inaction), sounding both somewhat remorseful for an arguable lack of care over users’ data privacy, but also committed to justify the “why” and “how.” (RELATED: Mark Zuckerberg Forced To Explain Fellow Exec’x Memo That Implies Platform-Caused Deaths May Ultimately Be Worth It)

“We have a responsibility to protect your data,” he wrote on his own social media profile, while enumerating a number of ways Facebook shows a responsibility for how it handles’ users personal online tendencies and traits.

Zuckerberg recently took out full-page newspaper advertisements in several outlets across the world, apologizing for a “breach of trust” that occurred among the larger population and the tech company he leads. But Zuckerberg also laced certain responses, like the aforementioned Facebook post and particular television appearances, with apparent defensiveness — a balance of tepid remorsefulness and self-justification he’s attempted before.

Detailing how much autonomy engineers are granted seems like an attempt at transparency, and perhaps a sign that Zuckerberg wants to regain the trust of the larger public. But admitting that workers who make potentially very influential technology don’t have much oversight is fairly troublesome, especially given the fact that other companies in the industry have rolled out highly flawed features only to be eventually suspended by higher-ups.

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