Facebook's Founder Mark Zuckerberg Wants Privacy

The publication of personal documents spurred Facebook's CEO to sue for privacy.

February 10, 2009, 8:28 AM

Dec. 4, 2007 — -- In an ironic twist of fate, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is fighting for his privacy.

The billionaire social networking pioneer sued 02138, a magazine that covers Harvard University, his alma mater, after it published private documents about Zuckerberg, including his undergraduate application and excerpts from his online diary. The documents accompanied a story titled "Poking Facebook," which examined the ongoing legal dispute between Zuckerberg and some of his fellow classmates, who claim Facebook was their idea.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2004 by three Harvard students who alleged that Zuckerberg stole the idea, codes and business model for Facebook when he was helping the trio program another social networking site, ConnectU.com.

And while the lawsuit has yet to be settled, the documents posted by the magazine provide a peek inside the case -- not only Zuckerberg's public testimony from court documents of how he got the idea to create Facebook but his apparently drunken -- and private -- diary postings written as he tweaked the program's coding and format.

An e-mail that Zuckerberg wrote to John Walsh, a member of Harvard's administrative board, is one of the documents the magazine posted on its site.

In it, Zuckerberg wrote that the accusations that he stole the idea of Facebook are an "annoyance" and that he is "appalled" the students would threaten him after how much "free work" he did for them in programming ConnectU.

Zuckerberg's online diary, which was also posted on the site, included his grievances with someone he calls a "bitch" and his belief that some people's online photos are less attractive than those of farm animals.

Having private information spread on the Internet, it seems, is no more fun for the creator of the leading social network site than it is for ordinary people who have found that their sensitive photos or documents have spun out of their control.

Facebook and other social networking sites allow people to share text and photos with everyone, or just a select group of invited friends.

Further complicating things for Zuckerberg is that some of the court documents published by 02138 (the ZIP code for Harvard University) were ordered sealed by the Federal District Court in Boston, according to The New York Times.

Zuckerberg's e-mail, application and diary are all stamped "confidential," despite having been posted on 02138's site.

"We filed the motions to let the court know that its orders were being violated," a Facebook representative told the paper. "One reason the court ordered certain documents' protection was to prevent exactly what has happened: misusing documents and taking documents out of context to sling mud."

Last week, a Boston judge ruled for 02138, refusing to order the magazine to remove the documents from its Web site.

Facebook didn't return calls by ABCNEWS.com for further comment.

Richard Bradley, the executive editor of the magazine, said that reporter Luke O'Brien simply came across some good luck when a clerk mistakenly handed him both public records and court sealed documents.

"We obtained the documents legally and to confirm that we ran them all by our lawyers," said Bradley. "We were confident in our ability to not only draw upon them in the article but to post them online."

Bradley told ABCNEWS.com that the objective of the article was to dive deeper into a lawsuit that had only been superficially reported on.

"We felt that the lawsuit had not really been closely examined elsewhere, and this was natural story for us," said Bradley, who added that the magazine's mission is to report about and for Harvard alumni, like Zuckerberg.

"A close reading of the lawsuit sheds some fascinating light on the origins of a really very powerful and watershed Web site," said Bradley.

ABC News and Facebook are partners in an online political initiative that combines the social networking site's technology with ABC's editorial content.

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