Helen Popkin
updated 6/3/2010 1:27:17 PM ET 2010-06-03T17:27:17

The reviews are in on Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance at the Wall Street Journal’s eighth D8, the All Things Digital conference. And the consensus is, things did not go well for the Facebook founder and CEO.

“Literally dissolving in a lake of his own sweat,” as described by D’s John Paczkowski, Zuckerberg fielded questions from the site’s executive producers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, without really answering any of them.

Responding to their repeated and rephrased queries on Facebook’s privacy issues and whether he understands there’s a perception that Facebook is on course to push all user info onto the open Web, Zuckerberg stayed on message. It was the same message Facebook’s been courting to the public via Zuckerberg’s recent Washington Post op-ed and the press conference introducing Facebook’s “simplified” privacy settings.

“There have been misperceptions that we are trying to make all information open,” he told Mossberg and Swisher. “That’s completely false.”

What is true, we may never know – other than Zuckerberg’s choreographed attempt, to present a benevolent social network unconcerned with its ability to make money in its selfless pursuit to serve the customer, grotesquely misses the mark.

An illuminating gallery of D8 tweets compiled by Silicon Alley Insider reveals the gaps between the Facebook message and how it is perceived.

“@Jason Zuckerberg at WSJ D conference ‘privacy is important … we think about it a lot.’ Powerful stuff, clearly someone went to media training.”

“@pkafka zuckerberg trots out stock line that FB has used for months – more than 50% of fb users have tweaked privacy settings.”

@jlouderb Zuckerberg's Talking Point: ‘to share and stay connected with the people around them and their friends’ He’s said it like 99 times. #d8”

“@pkafka It’s a really basic question that @waltmossberg keeps asking and zuck won’t answer: Why not make all of this opt-in? “

The arguably-obvious answer is that most Web businesses don’t use “opt-in” settings when it comes to your personal information. As evidenced by the continued surprise of Facebook users every time there’s a glut of stories about Facebook’s iffy privacy practices, people pay as much attention to their privacy settings as they do to any “Terms and Conditions” …  which is none.

It’s not in the long-term interest of most businesses to point out the finer points of its policies to customers, let alone make it easy for customer to figure things out on their own. If you’ve ever bothered to click on Facebook’s “Terms,” you’ll note that the text is several points smaller than the rest of the site. It’s not because they’re running out of Internet.

This is how the world works and maybe Facebook’s current PR offensive would be more successful if Zuckerberg openly acknowledged that instead of repeating the hollow message about how Facebook was never in it for the money, and exists solely to serve its users.

Thing is, in the end, nothing Zuckerberg says really matters to users. We certainly aren’t leaving Facebook en masse, as evidenced by the failed “Quit Facebook Day” coup of May 31. At this point, the Federal Trade Commission is the social networks’ real concern … not that we’ll ever hear that from Zuckerberg.

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