- Win McNamee/Getty Images
- Facebook’s security boss Alex Stamos called on Facebook to make some major changes in the wake of its string of scandals in March 2018.
- BuzzFeed News has published an internal memo in which the exec argues that the company needs to collect less user data and listen to people’s concerns about it being “creepy.”
Alex Stamos, Facebook’s head of security, called for radical overhaul in how Facebook operates in a leaked memo from March 2018, as the company reeled from a chain of ugly scandals.
In the nearly-1,700-word memo, which was published by BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, the chief security officer called for Facebook to collect less user data, stop focusing on growth, and to listen to concerns when people think a feature is “creepy.”
“We need to change the metrics we measure and the goals we shoot for. We need to adjust PSC to reward not shipping when that is the wiser decision. We need to think adversarially in every process, product and engineering decision we make. We need to build a user experience that conveys honesty and respect, not one optimized to get people to click yes to giving us more access. We need to intentionally not collect data where possible, and to keep it only as long as we are using it to serve people,” Stamos reportedly wrote.
“We need to find and stop adversaries who will be copying the playbook they saw in 2016. We need to listen to people (including internally) when they tell us a feature is creepy or point out a negative impact we are having in the world. We need to deprioritze short-term growth and revenue and to explain to Wall Street why that is ok. We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues. And we need to be open, honest and transparent about challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”
A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment.
Facebook’s current struggles are not because of any one person, Stamos wrote. Rather, they are “due to tens of thousands of small decisions made over the last decade” as the company did not realise what it would become and the nature of the threats it would face.
Stamos’ urging is in stark contrast to a previous leaked memo, also published by BuzzFeed News, from 2016. In it, senior executive Andrew “Boz” Bosworth defended company growth at any cost as a “de facto good,” even if it meant people died. (He subsequent tly said he didn’t agree with it despite writing it.) The company now emphasises that it takes a “broader view” of its responsibilities.
But by the time of the Stamos memo – March 23, 2018 – Facebook was already readjusting its priorities. In November 2017, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had said Facebook planned to invest so heavily into security that it could hurt the company’s profits.
Stamos, who previously worked at Yahoo also alluded to the toll the work has had on his personal life. “I have three children under twelve and I’ve come to the realization that I’ve spent 75% of my youngest child’s life as the CISO of companies in battle with the Russian intelligence services. This isn’t conducive to being a great parent,” he wrote.
The memo is well worth reading in its entirety over at BuzzFeed News.