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Facebook's Dark Start: Zuckerberg's Hacking, Betrayal Exposed in New Report

Silicon Alley Insider just published a rather lengthy investigation into the origins of Facebook. Specifically, it addresses the allegations that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for his social network from ConnectU, which he had been hired to help code. The report has also uncovered a pair of unsettling anecdotes that paint a less than flattering picture of its founder, including hacking into ConnectU and accessing data on Harvard newspaper writers covering the two networks.

Though Facebook and Zuckerberg have refused to comment, the Insider believes that it has established a reasonably complete and accurate account of the events surrounding the launch of both Facebook and ConnectU. The site reviewed e-mails and chat logs, and spoke to people familiar with the parties involved. The investigation found that, while Zuckerberg did often act in an unethical manner, there is no evidence that he stole the idea for Facebook directly from the Winklevoss brothers and Divya Narendra, all of whom collectively founded ConnectU.

Logs reveal that while Zuckerberg did agree to help code what would eventually become ConnectU, he also never entered into a formal contract with its founders. These records, which have not been verified by Zuckerberg or Facebook, indicate that he considered ConnectU competition to Facebook, but Zuckerberg thought the two to be very different services, and dismissively referred to ConnectU as a "dating site." These logs in no way indicate that he was harvesting ideas from the fellow Harvard-based startup, but they do suggest he was actively sabotaging its launch by delaying work on it until after he could get Facebook off the ground.

Two disturbing anecdotes, following the launches of both sites, are more damning. Allegations, of whose accuracy the Insider seems confident, suggest that Zuckerberg hacked into ConnectU to sabotage profiles and then guessed the e-mail accounts of two staffers at the Harvard Crimson (the student paper) using log-in records from his young social network. While these stories may simply sound like the immature rebelliousness of a college sophomore, they are extremely troublesome -- especially considering how many people currently entrust their own personal data to his Web site.

Huffington Post called the allegations "damaging," and while the Insider considered the $65 million settlement with ConnectU to be more than generous, it was also quite disturbed by Zuckerberg's abuse of his technical skills and position.

Assuming the details in the article are true, we're of the same opinion. ConnectU got more than it deserved. Even though it appears Zuckerberg acted unethically, he does not seem to have broken any contract or stole ideas from the Winklevoss brothers or Narendra. That said, the two allegations of hacking make us extremely uneasy. If true, has Zuckerberg matured enough in the ensuing years to realize the foolishness of such behavior? We'd hope so, but his often erratic public behavior and professional paranoia leave us skeptical. [From: The Silicon Alley Insider]

Tags: connectu, ethics, facebook, MarkZuckerberg, privacy, SocialNetworking, top, web