For years, critics have made the goal of Facebook privacy missteps, starting with the Cambridge Analytica scandal until the opening of this week, that Facebook has paid people – including minors – to allow it to spy on all its online activities, possibly even including encrypted private messages. This makes it a very big deal that over the last few weeks, the company has quietly leased three prominent privacy advocates, all the pronounced critics, seemingly to help the ship.
"Whether they can be effective internally, becoming a big bureaucracy that makes money on our knowledge is not yet visible."
Jennifer Granick, ACLU
These three people are lions in the world of data privacy. (WIRED has interviewed all three different stories about privacy risks.) And they have been particularly vocal critics on Facebook. By adding them inside, Facebook sends a message that it will give real decision-making power to people who deeply understand how a social media site and its application family reduce user privacy. The open question is whether Facebook will really listen.
Privacy lawyers have so far noticed cautious optimism. "Nate, Robyn and Nathan know the challenges and they wouldn't go to Facebook unless they see a realistic opportunity to make a meaningful difference. email to WIRED. "Whether they can be effective internally, becoming a big bureaucracy that makes money on our knowledge is not yet visible."
Jen King, Consumer Privacy Director at Stanford's Internet and Society Center, believes this is a sign that Facebook can be prepared to take seriously for privacy. "It's likely that Facebook has finally received a note and is really trying to make a change," King told WIRED. However, she also noted that Facebook has decided to support its privacy credentials at the end of the game, especially considering that its irresponsible user data processing led to a Federal Trade Commission decree by 2011. The FTC is currently investigating allegations that Facebook has breached these promises ever since. But with the increased scrutiny and more regulatory power coming from Europe and elsewhere, Facebook has almost no choice but with the program alone.
A skeptical view would be that Facebook made recruitment to silence three critics, and Facebook certainly deserves skepticism. But those who know the trio say they have joined in good faith and would leave if they could not make a positive change from within.
"Nate, Robyn, and Nathan … are deeply convinced people," says David O & # 39; Brien, Harvard Berkman Klein's Internet and community center privacy and security assistant. "They also have strong moral compasses. In my opinion, they would not have adopted these roles on Facebook without being sure that their contributions will be taken seriously."
"The reception of some people does not change culture, especially in an organization that has become as big and thriving as Facebook."
David O Brien, Harvard University
Earlier, for example, Kardozo has called Facebook "creepy", adding that "its business model depends on our collective confusion and apathy about privacy. It is wrong, both as an ethical and a legal issue." For years, he has been working on the EFF's annual technology company report on how well they protect the privacy of users, which has often ranked WhatsApp and Facebook terribly. In December, Cardozo's fellow EFF concluded "Facebook never deserves your trust."
"If you know at all, you know it's not a step I will do," Cardozo wrote in a Facebook post announcing his new job. “After Facebook's privacy has been taken over in recent years, I was skeptical. But the privacy team I join know me well and knows how I feel about technology policy, privacy, and encrypted messaging. And what they want to manage the privacy of WhatsApp.
In addition, Facebook will continue to work with or without privacy. This makes "if you can't beat them, join them" strategy that is more enjoyable. "The reception of some people does not change culture, especially in an organization that has become so big and spread like Facebook," said Brien. "I perceive it as a sign that Facebook is at least interested in exploring what changes might look like."
There is also hope that White, Kardozo and Greene will not only help strengthen Facebook's privacy credentials, but will also open up useful talks between their former defense worlds and Facebook management.
And the change is coming. After years of keeping the differences between WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, Zuckerberg intends to combine the messaging components of these platforms so that people can communicate in all three. It will be a great test of WhatsApp and hence Cardozo. WhatsApp is full, the default end-to-end encryption since 2016, and Cardozo will be instructed to help make sure that encryption is not compromised by combining services.
From the outside, it will be very difficult to know if the purchase of Cardozo, White and Greene games inside Facebook pays off. "When people go inside, it's hard for them to talk publicly," the king notes.
After first agreeing to talk to WIRED about this story, Cardozo refused after having joined the Facebook communications team. Greene and White did not respond to the comments. WIRED has reached Facebook comments and will update this story if we hear back. Her statement TwitterGreene called the Facebook privacy team "incredible." In his statement, Cardozo mentioned the "huge challenge". It might be gentle.