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Facebook security boss Alex Stamos called for changes in leaked memo

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Alex Stamos
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  • 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
.

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