The Partnership of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg Didn’t Survive


For Ms Sandberg, the move to Facebook, a company run by a strange 23-year-old college dropout, was not as illogical as it might seem. He was vice president at Google, but had reached a ceiling: He had several vice presidents at his rank, and they were all vying for promotion. Eric Schmidt, who was CEO at the time, wasn’t calling number 2, former Google colleagues claimed. Men who did not perform as well as him were recognized and held higher titles.

“Despite leading a larger, more profitable, and faster-growing business than men of his peers, he was not given the title of president, but they were,” said Kim Scott, lead ad sales division. Miss Sandberg was looking for something new. She said yes to Facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg brought in Ms. Sandberg to deal with the growing discomfort with the company in Washington. He professionalized the ragtag office there, opened by a recent college graduate whose first job was to help lawmakers set up their Facebook account. He represented Facebook as a member of President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, along with other executives and union leaders. After a meeting of the council, he accompanied Mr. Obama on Air Force One to Facebook headquarters, where the president held a town hall to discuss the economy. But soon cracks appeared on the façade.

In October 2010, he met with FTC chairman Jonathan Leibowitz to try to suppress a privacy investigation. Sandberg, a relaxed and confident woman, began the meeting in her office claiming that Facebook gives users more control over their data than any other internet company, and that the company’s biggest regret is not communicating clearly how its privacy policy works.

According to people attending the meeting, FTC officials immediately challenged him. On a personal level, Mr. Leibowitz noted that he watches his middle-school-aged daughter struggle with Facebook’s privacy settings that automatically make it easier for strangers to find users like her. “I see it at home,” he said.

“That’s great,” replied Mrs. Sandberg. He went on to describe the social network as “empowering” for younger users. Mr. Leibowitz didn’t say this was good news and stressed to him that the FTC is deeply concerned about privacy.

Facebook spokesperson Ms Lever described the meeting as “important” with a detailed explanation of the company’s privacy policies. He added that characterizing the tension in the room “misreflects what actually happened.”


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