Facebook has made 'material missteps' in the past 18 months, according to a close ally of Sheryl Sandberg


Zander Lurie Sun Valley

  • Facebook has made material missteps, but its COO Sheryl Sandberg is still best-placed to fix those mistakes, according to an executive who has Sandberg on his board.
  • SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie is a friend of Sandberg’s, and took his current job after her husband, then-SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, died.
  • Lurie said he wanted the US to follow Europe’s privacy model, as exemplified by the GDPR.
  • SurveyMonkey has opened its first data centre in Europe, in Dublin.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook has made “material missteps” over the past 18 months in data privacy and consumer trust, but its COO Sheryl Sandberg is still the best placed to fix its problems. That’s according to friend and associate Zander Lurie, the chief executive of public survey firm SurveyMonkey.

Sandberg sits on SurveyMonkey’s board, and her husband, Dave Goldberg, had been the company’s chief executive before his unexpected death in 2015. Lurie was chairman of SurveyMonkey’s board at the time, and working at GoPro. He became interim CEO after the death of Goldberg and then took on the job permanently in 2016.

Dave Goldberg

Despite his close ties to Sandberg, who is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s most trusted advisor, Lurie was still forthcoming about a rocky period for the social network, in which it has dealt with a string of scandals. 

“Facebook has made some material missteps and I think they are committed and spending an inordinate amount of time and resources to make amends and help define a better environment for people’s data,” Lurie said in an interview with Business Insider.

“I think they have 2.5 billion [users] posting on their platform every day, and no company has ever encountered a challenge like theirs. And to think it’ll happen without messiness is impossible.”

But he thinks Sandberg is the best person to right the wrongs.

He continued: “I think Sheryl is a world-class human being and mentor, and her integrity is impenetrable. What mistakes she may have made, I can’t comment on, other than knowing her for 20 years as a leader, as a mentor, as a businessperson… She has the integrity and commitment to make Facebook a better place.”

Lurie said he was in favour of greater regulation in the tech sector around data privacy.

“I am all in favour of more regulation and more privacy and security to protect folks’ data,” he said. “I think it benefits SurveyMonkey, and it benefits my friends and family, and I care about protecting our data online.”

SurveyMonkey handles 20 million survey answers every day, with the bulk of that data belonging to the firm’s customers. Lurie was visiting in London to announce the opening of the firm’s first European data centre in Dublin.

Read more: 7 investors and founders reveal 6 reasons Europe has never produced its own Facebook, Google, or Amazon

Lurie added that the US and other countries should look to Europe and its introduction of new privacy regulation, the GDPR, as a model for future legislation.

“Europe is a leader here,” he said. “California and other states and countries are going to school on how Europe is doing it. It necessitates a cross-functional collaboration between government actors, for-profit actors, and advocacy groups. The end results will be better than a free-for-all, because you need to protect consumers’ interests.”

Sandberg reportedly tried to directly influence Europe’s data rules with the help of former UK chancellor George Osborne, and Facebook stepped up its EU lobbying efforts ahead of the introduction of the GDPR.

Asked how his pro-privacy attitude squared with having Sandberg on the board, Lurie acknowledged the tension. But he defended Sandberg and her position on the board.

SEE ALSO: A TikTok smartphone is a credible threat to Facebook

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