Facebook hires one of its biggest privacy critics to oversee WhatsApp privacy

By Kate Fazzini

Nate Cardozo
Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Facebook has hired Nate Cardozo, formerly the top legal counsel at privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a prominent Facebook critic, to a privacy role at WhatsApp. The move comes as the social media giant seeks to integrate the WhatsApp messenger product with its Instagram and Facebook properties.

Adding Cardozo to the WhatsApp privacy ranks shows how the company may be planning for future legal and lobbying efforts. Facebook is facing scrutiny in the EU over its plans to merge other social media properties with WhatsApp, with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner saying the move could be barred over privacy concerns.

Cardozo has written acerbically on the company's privacy practices:

"Maybe you don't care enough about a faceless corporation's data mining to go out of your way to protect your privacy, and anyway you don't have anything to hide," Cardozo wrote in an op-ed in October 2015, published in the San Jose Mercury News. "Facebook counts on that; its business model depends on our collective confusion and apathy about privacy. That's wrong, as a matter of both ethics and law."

The EFF has also criticized WhatsApp specifically, downgrading the app in its secure messaging guide in 2016, saying: "WhatsApp's recent privacy policy update announced plans to share data with WhatsApp's parent company Facebook, signalling a concerning shift in WhatsApp's attitude toward user privacy. In particular, the open-ended, vague language in the updated privacy policy raises questions about exactly what WhatsApp user information is or is not shared with Facebook."

Most recently, the EFF published a critique in December 2018 of recently released Facebook information, titled, "New documents show that Facebook has never deserved your trust."

A Facebook spokesman declined to make Cardozo available for an interview Tuesday. Cardozo confirmed the move via social media.

Cardozo will be joined by Open Technology Institute alum Robyn Green, who announced on Twitter Tuesday that she would be leaving the tech privacy advocacy group — where she also served in a law and policy role — to join Facebook as a privacy policy manager. Her role will be focused on "law enforcement access and data protection issues." Green confirmed the tweet and the career move with CNBC Tuesday.