Online storage startup Dropbox added Condoleezza Rice to its board of directors.
There’s plenty of logic in adding Rice, despite her lack of tech startup experience. She’s a black woman, and there are few black people, or women in high roles in the tech industry. It’s good to diversify.
More importantly, she’s the former Secretary of State, and an advisor the NSA. As technology bumps up against the government, it’s helpful to have a liaison to Washington D.C.
At the same time, though, her past behaviour as a government official is stirring up controversy.
“Adding Condi Rice to the Dropbox board might be the most tone-deaf move by a big Silicon Valley company in as long as I can remember,” tech journalist Ed Bott tweeted.
That’s because Rice justified warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, when she was a NSA advisor. Now she’s on the board of a company that holds loads and loads of our personal data.
Meanwhile, Freedom of Press Executive Director Trevor Timm is also sceptical of Rice’s appointment to the board. He tweeted, “Disturbing move from Dropbox, who just added Condi Rice — public advocate of warrantless wiretapping — to its board.”
Dan Primack at Fortune was also slightly critical, but from a different angle. In addition to Rice joining the board, Pearl Jam announced that it was investing in Dropbox. Pearl Jam has been highly critical of Rice and the Bush administration.
“Pearl Jam has spent the better part of a decade slamming the morality of decisions made by people like Rice, whose current day job is to run a consulting firm co-founded by Stephen Hadley, a fellow Iraq hawk within the Bush Administration who eventually would succeed Rice as National Security Advisor,” says Primack. “Now Pearl Jam is investing in a company where Rice will be a very important voice (again, one of just four board members).”
We’ve been reaching out to people in the industry to see what they think. Does it matter that someone who defended the NSA is now working for Dropbox?
“We shouldn’t be concerned,” LocalResponse founder and angel investor Nihal Mehta tells Business Insider. “The benefit dramatically outweighs the cost.”
That’s because Dropbox is gearing up to go public and expand internationally. But for now, Dropbox is outlawed in China, which could be their biggest market.
“I think this is a very smart move,” Mehta says. “We need to have more females on boards of directors in tech companies, and more people of colour on boards of tech companies,” Mehta says.
That’s obviously not the reason for appointing Rice, he says, but it’s a nice cherry on top to someone who is already extremely qualified to help Dropbox grow.
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