Facebook’s latest public controversy may have claimed its first major casualty. According to reporting from The New York Times, the social media giant is poised to part ways with its high-profile chief security officer, Alex Stamos. That story suggests that Stamos created friction within Facebook by pushing for an aggressive approach to exploring and disclosing to the public the platform’s role in disseminating Russian state-sponsored disinformation to users. Stamos apparently initiated his exit in December 2017 but was convinced to stay on through August to avoid the hit to public perception, The New York Times reports.
Stamos weighed in over the weekend, arguing that Facebook’s revelations around the Trump campaign-linked data analytics firm did not qualify as a “breach” in the technical sense. That term generally connotes hacking or a technical compromise of some kind, though the Cambridge Analytica situation involves a since-deprecated lax API and a business model that revolves around collecting massive troves of personal data and doling it out in ways often far from transparent to the average user.
Stamos, who joined the company in June 2015 after spending nearly a year-and-a-half wrestling with privacy woes at Yahoo, is generally well-respected within the security community. According to a story from Reuters in 2016, Stamos reportedly left his position as the top security officer at Yahoo after the company complied with a secret U.S. intelligence directive that allowed the government to search Yahoo user emails via purpose-built software.
Stamos’s presence at Facebook — and his at-times candid explanations of the internal workings and reasoning of the often opaque social network — projected the sense that the company was taking user privacy seriously. Depending on what happens next, the security officer’s absence at Facebook is likely to speak volumes, too.
A Facebook spokesperson sent this statement in response to questions about the potential departure: “Alex Stamos continues to be the Chief Security Officer (CSO) at Facebook. He has held this position for nearly three years and leads our security efforts especially around emerging security risks. He is a valued member of the team and we are grateful for all he does each and every day.”
In a tweet, Stamos contradicted reporting that he is on the way out at Facebook, claiming that his role has shifted without directly addressing chatter around a rumored plan to leave the company later this year.