Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer since 2015, announced that he is leaving the company to take a position at Stanford University. The company has been shedding leadership over the last half a year largely owing to fallout from its response, or lack thereof, to the ongoing troubles relating to user data security and election interference on the social network.
“While I have greatly enjoyed this work, the time has come for me to move on from my position as Chief Security Officer at Facebook,” he wrote in a public Facebook post. “Starting in September, I will join Stanford University full-time as a teacher and researcher.”
Rumors that Stamos was not long for the company spread in March; he was said to have disagreed considerably with the tack Facebook had taken in disclosure and investigation of its role in hosting state-sponsored disinformation seeded by Russian intelligence. To be specific, he is said to have preferred more and better disclosures rather than the slow drip-feed of half-apologies, walkbacks and admissions we’ve gotten from the company over the last year or so.
He said at in March that “despite the rumors, I’m still fully engaged with my work at Facebook,” though he acknowledged that his role now focused on “emerging security risks and working on election security.”
Funnily enough, that is exactly the topic he will be looking into at Stanford as a new adjunct professor, where he will be joining a new group called Information Warfare, The New York Times reported.
“This fall, I am very excited to launch a course teaching hands-on offensive and defensive techniques and to contribute to the new cybersecurity master’s specialty at [the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies],” Stamos wrote.
Leaving because of a major policy disagreement with his employer would not be out of character for Stamos. He reportedly left Yahoo (which of course was absorbed into Aol to form TechCrunch’s parent company, Oath) because of the company’s choice to allow U.S. intelligence access to certain user data. One may imagine a similar gulf in understanding between him and others at Facebook, especially on something as powerfully divisive as this election interference story or the Cambridge Analytica troubles.
“My last day at Facebook will be August 17th,” he wrote, “and while I will no longer have the pleasure of working side by side with my friends there, I am encouraged that there are so many dedicated, thoughtful and skilled people continuing to tackle these challenges. It is critical that we as an industry live up to our collective responsibility to consider the impact of what we build, and I look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with the security and safety teams at Facebook.”
Stamos is far from the only Facebook official to leave recently; Colin Stretch, chief legal officer, announced his departure last month after more than eight years at the company; its similarly long-serving head of policy and comms, Elliot Schrage, left the month before; WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum left that company in April.
Facebook directed me to Stamos’s post when asked for comment; we have asked Stamos for more information directly and will update if we hear back.