Don't Expect Mark Zuckerberg's BFF to Fix Facebook's Privacy Problems

Facebook's revenue has grown astronomically in the last couple years. This is largely attributable to the business savvy of its superstar chief operating officer, ex-Googler Sheryl Sandberg. But don't expect her to give a shit about user privacy.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is profiled by the Times today, which calls her "Mark Zuckerberg's most valuable friend." The Times rightly credits Sandberg with smartly managing Facebook's growing pains, as the site's users have multiplied sevenfold and revenues have shot up to $1.6 billion since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg convinced her to leave Google for Facebook more than two years ago. But the article points out "there's one area where Ms. Sandberg's influence has yet to work its magic: privacy concerns."

And it probably won't. From what we hear, the business-minded Sandberg is a strong advocate for increasing the amount of your personal information Facebook uses to attract advertisers. For example, a Facebook insider says one initiative under consideration would divide groups of users into "clusters" based on their interactions with third-party apps like games or dating services. Companies could then target advertising only at Facebook users who are, say, heavy Farmville users.

In fact, our source tells us Sandberg's aggressiveness on the advertising issue is actually a source of tension between her and Mark Zuckerberg, who would rather focus on user experience. "There is a misconception that Zuckerberg is sort of leading the charge to make money," our source says. "It's completely the opposite. It's the ex-Google salespeople" Sandberg brought to the company.

In other words, Sandberg's role as the business brain of a company that makes money off of your personal information practically guarantees she'll never be a privacy champion.