Facebook's COO Tells Europe, 'It's The Economy, Stupid'

By Jennifer Moire Comment

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg urged European leaders to focus on growing the economy over privacy regulations in a speech that previewed her message to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland later this week.

While Sandberg’s speech was delivered gently, according to news accounts, the point is reminiscent of the famous U.S. presidential campaign line: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

As a former economist with the World Bank and chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Treasury, Sandberg is a credible messenger.

Her belief that social media can play a role in jump-starting the global economy was previewed in her interview for the World Economic Forum’s blog, where she said that the Facebook “app economy” has generated more than 200,000 U.S. jobs.

The New York Times reports that Sandberg’s remarks at the Digital Life Design conference come as the European Commission prepares to release a draft of privacy regulations restricting how Internet companies can gather, use and store personal data.

The proposed regulations are likely to be more severe than the rules currently in place in the U.S.

Facebook has also had to address the privacy issue in the U.S.

The U.S. Congress continues to grapple with crafting legislation, and the social network recently settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over how the platform uses and stores consumer data. In response, the social network added legal staff to its Washington, D.C., office to manage privacy issues.

There is a legitimate argument to be made for a renewed focus on the economy. Many experts claim that Europe is on the brink of an economic meltdown, which would trigger a global reaction.

Echoing a similar program in the U.S., Sandberg announced in Munich that the company would provide Facebook ad credits worth 100 euros for 50,000 small businesses.

The program reinforces Facebook’s economic message and could deflect some attention from the privacy debate.

Sandberg is the first Facebook executive to co-chair the World Economic Forum in Davos that kicks-off this week.

Continuing the economic theme, the company just named a few of the guests that will participate in Facebook Live interviews from Davos, including International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Do you agree with Facebook that Europe should focus on the economy over privacy?