Facebook hired three privacy advocates in January amidst calls for greater scrutiny and regulation of the social media giant’s privacy practices.
Facebook hired three experts from Access Now, a digital consumers rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which focuses on free speech, and the Open Technology Institute (OTI), which a Facebook spokesman said reflects the company’s desire to help solve privacy-related problems.
The hires arise as the company faces increasing scrutiny from Congress and the public for its privacy-related scandals. Last December, the social media giant inflamed controversy when they gave Cambridge Analytica access to millions of Americans private data.
Further, Facebook’s recent decision to merge Facebook with Instagram and WhatsApp reportedly has “significant implications for privacy.”
Nathan White, from Access Now, previously criticized a Senate Commerce Committee hearing which he said featured witnesses from big tech companies but no consumers groups.
Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney at Georgetown’s communications and technology law clinic, said:
“I’m impressed that Facebook wants their expertise and isn’t just hiring yes-men. It’s encouraging that they’re hiring people with a great track record who will advocate for consumers.”
In regards to Facebook’s strategy, Barrett said, “I would hope that it means that they’re understanding that the tides have changed.”
Alex Howard, a former deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, said, “Whether the hires will have a positive impact “depends how much good faith you want to give Facebook.”
Howard said that he hopes the hires are not just “symbolic.”
“It is heartening if they’re bringing in tough critics who have specific expertise in understanding the issues,” Howard added. “The question is whether those people will have the opportunity to actually have impact on policy, and whether the very top of the company—Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg and the board—will take what they’re saying and actually implement.”