Does Snapchat's CEO need to go?January 3, 2014: 3:25 PM ET
Snapchat's response to its data breach is more troubling than the breach itself.
FORTUNE -- In the wake of Snapchat's massive data breach this week, one of two things has become clear. Either:
- 1. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel should be fired, or
- 2. Spiegel should fire whoever is advising him not to apologize for this mess.
In the days since a hacker published a database of around 4.6 million Snapchat user names and phone numbers, Snapchat has issued two public statements about the breach. One came yesterday via the company's blog. It described what had happened, what Snapchat was doing to prevent further attacks and asked users to inform Snapchat about other security vulnerabilities. The second came from Spiegel himself in a highly-edited Today Show interview with Carson Daly.
In neither venue did Snapchat explicitly apologize to users for what is obviously a massive violation of user trust. This is not about whether or not Snapchat should have fixed its security hole earlier -- it had previously acknowledged being warned about this very possibility -- or about legal liability. It's about doing right by the millions of people who use the service, in large part, because it is designed to offer a more private social networking and sharing experience than do sites like Facebook (FB) or Twitter (TWTR).
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If Evan Spiegel is disinclined to apologize, or doesn't feel he should, then perhaps he really isn't up for the job. Whenever a 20-something CEO is replaced in Silicon Valley, people often say that he has been replaced by an "adult." It's usually both paternalistic and patronizing, but perhaps appropriate when the 20-something is not mature enough to say "I'm sorry."
But perhaps Spiegel really does want to utter those two words, but has been advised not to by one of those aforementioned "adults." Perhaps a board member or lawyer. In that case, then Spiegel should fire that person, or at least stop listening to them. Apologies under these circumstances are expected -- just ask Target (TGT) -- and Snapchat's failure to follow such reasonable convention has sparked a second day of stories that only serve to remind people that it was hacked.
I guess there also is a third possibility: No one has directly asked Spiegel to apologize, and his earlier failure to do so was a thoughtless oversight rather than an intentional strategy. So, just in case, I sent him an email an hour or so again with that explicit question. If he replies, I'll be sure to update this post (and rewrite lots of it). If not, someone needs to be fired.
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