Facebook’s security chief Alex Stamos is leaving Facebook. But it is not due to latest backlash about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica; instead, the social network’s chief security officer is stepping down due to disagreements about how Facebook should have handled the spread of disinformation.
The New York Times reported that much of disagreement “is rooted in how much Facebook should publicly share about how nation states misused the platform and debate over organizational changes in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.”
Although Stamos is not leaving until August, Facebook “has already taken away Stamos’ responsibilities to counter government-sponsored disinformation,” according to Reuters.
Current and former Facebook employees told the Times that Stamos was pushing for the social network to further investigate and publicly disclose more about the “Russian interference of the platform.” There were also disagreements about “restructuring to better address the issues.” In response, Facebook reassigned some of the CSO’s daily responsibilities to others back in December.
Despite the rumors, I'm still fully engaged with my work at Facebook. It's true that my role did change. I'm currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security.
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 19, 2018
After Facebook took away his responsibilities to oversee the social network’s response to “government-sponsored disinformation,” Stamos was reportedly ready to leave. He agreed to stay through August to oversee the transition of his responsibilities. Also, he stayed because Facebook “executives thought his departure would look bad.”
Sources told the Times that Stamos used to oversee his security team of 120 employees. Now his staff consists of three people.
He was quick to defend his team, tweeting: “To be clear, the security team has never been prevented or discouraged from investigating any Russian activity by any executives.”
To be clear, the security team has never been prevented or discouraged from investigating any Russian activity by any executives. https://t.co/At2KSn8oXE
— Alex Stamos (@alexstamos) March 20, 2018
On the official front, Facebook called Stamos a “valued member of the team” without mentioning his planned departure or the disclosure disagreements.
UK kicked Facebook auditors out of Cambridge office; asked Zuckerberg to testify
Amid news like the current Facebook scandal cost Zuckerberg $6.06 billion in Facebook stock value on Monday, yet saved him “tens of millions of dollars” because he sold Facebook stock before Monday’s decline, Facebook PR people can’t put out the fires fast enough.
On Monday, the UK-based Channel 4 went public with footage obtained from an undercover investigation. In a nutshell, Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive Alexander Nix was caught on film admitting to shady political practices which included using bribes, ex-spies and sex workers.
When Facebook’s forensic auditors went to Cambridge Analytica’s offices on Monday evening to make sure Cambridge had deleted the data on 50 million Facebook users, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is the British data protection authority, told Facebook to get out.
Facebook then updated its statement about the forensic audit to include:
Independent forensic auditors from Stroz Friedberg were on site at Cambridge Analytica’s London office this evening. At the request of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Stroz Friedberg auditors stood down.
It is considered unusual for the UK’s data protection authorities to “swoop” into a company’s office. Fortune added, “It’s also deeply embarrassing for Facebook. Even if the firm wasn’t trying to cover anything up by sending in its own contractors, this episode may create that impression in some people’s minds. At the very least, it shows how Facebook—which, remember, told Cambridge Analytica and Kogan to delete the abused data a few years ago—only decided to check their assurances about the data’s deletion after the whole thing became an international scandal.”
Then today, the UK Parliamentary Committee sent a letter (pdf) to Zuckerberg; it asks him to appear before the committee to give oral evidence as the answers previously given by Facebook officials had “consistently understated” the risk of how Facebook acquires and holds onto user data and if that data had been obtained without users’ consent. Zuckerberg has until Monday, March 26, to respond.