Zucked is thus a candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism ... The story of Facebook has been told many times before, but McNamee does a superb job of contextualizing its rise within the proper technological history ... The most stirring parts of the book are those in which McNamee makes the angry but measured argument that 'social media has enabled personal views that had previously been kept in check by social pressure' ... McNamee’s book is not merely the cri de coeur of a forsworn tech optimist zinged by moral conscience. It’s also a robust and helpful itemization of the ways Facebook could be brought to heel.
Anyone looking for a systematic treatment of Silicon Valley’s political and economic power will probably be disappointed. Zucked does dabble in the recent history of Silicon Valley and the country to explain how both have turned libertarian, substituting civic engagement at the heart of a vibrant democracy with user engagement at the heart of Facebook’s outsize balance sheet. Such analytical efforts, however, mostly stay on the surface. McNamee is much more convincing on the inner workings of Silicon Valley ... Not all of these parts [in the book] are equally enjoyable. McNamee’s penchant for sharing the life stories of his latest associates and his constant name-dropping often get in the way ... McNamee doesn’t quite provide answers [to what the future of the Internet holds], either, but we can hope that Zucked will trigger just the kind of debate needed to find them.
The best and most useful parts of Zucked, I find, are those that draw on Mr. McNamee’s lengthy experience as a Silicon Valley investor to explain exactly how and why today’s tech giants compile troves of detailed information on their users and what the political consequences of their frequently amoral efforts may be ... Facebook makes us more like what we already are and therefore less inclined to tolerate those ever-stranger beings on the other side. This isn’t an original insight, but Mr. McNamee expresses it fluently—he understands the business model from the inside.
McNamee excels at grounding Facebook in the historical context of the technology industry. Shedding fresh light on an already deeply covered story, he describes how Facebook was born when tech start-ups were suddenly no longer limited by processing power, memory and network bandwidth ... While Zucked is an excellent account of the story so far, Facebook’s fate is far from sealed. McNamee admits his analysis is still more of an 'emerging hypothesis' than a firm conclusion.
[The book's] historical approach allows McNamee to draw valuable connections between present-day troubles and the company’s philosophical source code ... The time line of Facebook’s transgressions that McNamee supplies will be familiar to readers of the news. More interesting is what the book reveals, at times unintentionally, about the utopian worldview of the company’s enablers ... [McNamee] overlooks the industry’s contributions to global inequality, its environmental impact, and its exploitative labor practices ... An optimist might say that McNamee has set himself up for a sequel, one in which he eventually comes to discover that the whole industry, and not just Facebook, is fucked.
It is an unevenly told tale. McNamee wants readers to think of him as a player in the events he describes, but the text regularly has a sense of things viewed from too great a distance. That said, he knows enough about Facebook and its contexts to get to the heart of what its presence in our lives means for the world, and is bracingly blunt about the company’s threat to the basic tenets of democracy, and his own awakening to its dangers.
... this is a brutal, almost oppressive exposé. If mega-corporations like Google or Amazon didn’t in fact rule the world, a book as damning Zucked would spell the end of Facebook ... Our author might cut [Zuckerberg] and [Sheryl Sandberg] some slack for stealing the ideas of other people and using them to create a hydra that continues to despoil the world almost completely unchecked, but readers of Zucked won’t be inclined to such mercies. McNamee has done his work too well.
... Roger McNamee... informatively outlines his concerns regarding Facebook privacy and information-sharing policies, and its contribution to political polarization ... Drawing on his years as a Silicon Valley insider, McNamee provides a fascinating background of the tech industry, explaining concepts such as Moore’s Law, metadata and cloud sharing services ... The result is a nonfiction book that reads like a thriller, particularly since the story is still unraveling in real time.
McNamee prescribes a diet that includes not buying into the vitriol as well as erasing one’s Facebook history and not using Google because of its exploitative data-collection policies, instead using neutral search engines that do not collect data—as well as limiting one’s social media time to a few minutes a day, recognizing that these platforms are fine examples of the law of diminishing returns ... A well-reasoned and well-argued case against extractive technology.
An informative guide, bolstered by a unique insider’s perspective ... The book is a little overlong due to some redundant and all-too-familiar passages on the dangers of social media, as well as some seemingly irrelevant autobiography. However, it succeeds as a comprehensible primer on the political pitfalls of big tech.