The Canary in the Facebook Coal Mine

Alex Stamos, who quit Yahoo over CEO Marissa Mayer’s playing footsie with the NSA: (Limited time link, it goes behind a paywall in about a day)

Interesting piece on Re/Code this morning about the “secret meeting” of Valley engineers who fear that Trump is very, very bad for tech.

They’re right of course, and they’re also right when they talk about the potential for an engineers’ strike to grind major tech companies to a halt.

And yet, Re/Code still managed to bury the lede by breezing past a mention of one significant attendee…

The rules say all attendees are granted anonymity unless willing to be outed, which made Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos’s appearance all the more significant. He declined to comment, but did give Recode permission to print his name.

And that’s all the piece had to say about Alex Stamos. Which is a shame because simply describing Stamos as Facebook’s CSO doesn’t do him – or his appearance at the meeting – justice. In fact, taken at face value it almost suggests that Facebook had send such a high ranking exec to a “secret meeting” of rank and file techies to keep tabs on potentially troublesome workers.

The truth is something far more interesting, and far more encouraging.

It’s certainly true to say that Stamos is a high ranking Facebook exec, but he’s also something else: The canary in the coal mine. Anyone worried about Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s willingness to cosy up to Trump (and in Zuck’s case, his increasingly weird willingess to cosy up to ultra-nationalist demagogues and authoritarian regimes generally) should keep a very close eye on what Stamos does next.

For one thing, it’s hard to find a bio of Stamos that doesn’t include the phrase “vocal NSA critic.” Back in 2014, when Stamos joined Yahoo as its CSO, Entrepreneur magazine described him thus:


A year later, now at Yahoo, Stamos “clashed” with the director of the NSA over the agency’s demands for backdoors to access encrypted user data. Per the BBC


A few months later, it was reported that Stamos had been “poached” by Facebook. In fact, as Reuters revealed in 2016, Stamos resigned from Yahoo after discovering that his employer had agreed to pass data to the American government.

According to two of the former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

Which brings us to this week’s “secret meeting” and Stamos’ willingness to be mentioned by name as an attendee.


The question is whether Facebook continues to try to keep Trump happy when those requests start rolling in (see also: requests to hire fewer immigrants or, even worse, to share information on those immigrants currently employed.)

In that regard, at least based on past performance, Alex Stamos is someone to whom we should all be paying attention. And in that context the timing of his very public attendance at an anti-Trump meeting looks a lot like a shot across the bows of his own employer.

Should Stamos suddenly get “poached” by another company or decide to leave Facebook for some other unspecified reason, the rest of us should probably take that as a cue to get our data as far away from Mark Zuckerberg’s servers as possible.

Mark Zuckerberg is not to be trusted.  There has never been a privacy promise that Facebook has not broken, and his dealing with his partners has been problematic, and now there are rumors that he wants to run for President in 2024.

Unfortunately, the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is gone, but I am sure that there are services out there that perform the same function in a more trustworthy and reliable manner than does Facebook.

If he leaves,

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