TO: WRT 200 03 Students
CC: Professor Stinnett
FROM: Kristie DeVlieger
SUBJECT: Status Updates- effective memos?!
Zuckerberg’s Facebook status update served to update the public on steps Facebook is and has taken previously in response to a specific information data. The purpose of this memo is to inform why the update was written as well as to compare the Zuckerberg Facebook update to the traditional format of an adjustment memo.
The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
– A Facebook app illegally took 50 million Facebook user profiles’ data in 2014. The data was reported destroyed but showed up in the 2016 Trump Campaign’s software programming.
The information data leak was reported by The Guardian, and The New York Times and concerned the illegal collection of data related to 50 million Facebook users in 2014 by a Cambridge University researcher, Aleksandr Kogan.
The app “thisisyourdigitallife” “scraped” private information from profiles and their friends’ profiles. The data was supposed to be used to map out personality traits based on “likes.” It was provided, raw, to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm.
Cambridge Analytica used the illegally gained data and provided it to the 2016 Trump Campaign, instead of destroying it in 2015, as promised to Facebook. The data was used to build a powerful software program that was used to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.
– The public view is that Facebook failed to alert users of the information leak, refused to accept responsibility and acknowledge that it was an information leak, and it is questioned as to whether enough has been done to secure users information.
The original memo written by Zuckerberg is an adjustment: a response to a claim or complaint. Its goal is to respond to the complaint, and to rebuild the relationship with the reader (the public, news outlets, whistle blowers, and of course, its users). According to Technical Communication Today, there are four steps to follow when writing an adjustment.
1. Express regret without directly taking blame- as much as possible.
o “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”
2. Detail what you are doing to resolve the issue and prevent it from occurring again.
o “First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity.”
o “Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse.”
o Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data.”
3. When to expect results
o Facebook does this in step two as well, detailing steps already taken in 2014, as well as clearly stating when to expect the new changes to take effect (over the next month).
4. Show your appreciation of the reader.
o “I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together.”
– Zuckerberg’s status update follows the conventions of a standard memo.
Traditionally a memo lacks a salutation and a signature and begins with a standard heading. The status update lacks the standard heading but includes a header of its own- a standard set of information that is posted alongside a status update. This information is the poster’s name, the date, time, and location. The status itself is set to “public,” which includes all its readers. He does not include a formal signature at the bottom of the update, but he does use a different tense. In both the opening paragraph and the last two paragraphs of his update, he uses the personal singular “I” to build a relationship with his audience, then switches to the plural “we” in the body of the text, perhaps to lend authority. In this first paragraph he clearly states his
purpose and reinforces the point that steps to protect users’ data have already been taken.
In topic 1, he responds to the complaint. Zuckerberg admits their responsibility to protect users’ data and shifts the issue to the past, citing it as old news. There is a partial acceptance and a soft apology. In the following paragraphs he gives the reader a detailed timeline summary of the past issue. This serves to catch up the reader on the issue and uses common terminology. It also shifts the blame to the responsible parties by naming them.
In topic 2, Zuckerberg details the immediate action that was taken by Facebook in the past, and then reinforces the view that Facebook is securing users data by outlining the data information crack down. This is laid out in three points with mini paragraphs for easy digestion by the reader.
In his conclusion, Zuckerberg reinforces the point that steps have been and are continuing to be taken. He accepts responsibility for past negligence (but not anything to do with the current scandal) and promises to learn from it and work towards better security. He then completes the final piece by thanking the users.
In conclusion, I believe the Zuckerberg Facebook status update aligns to the expected conventions of a memo despite its unconventional circulation and connects to the situation it is responding to. It acknowledges its variety of readers and uses the text to address that by using all the steps of an
adjustment, as well as its formatting. The author clearly shows his intentions and meets the purpose of the text.