- A year on from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been significant management change at Facebook.
- Some of Mark Zuckerberg’s closest lieutenants have left since the scandal broke, including his product boss Chris Cox this week.
- Scroll on for the full list of senior Facebook departures over the past 12 months.
It’s been one year since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal blew up, enveloping Facebook in a controversy that is still running to this day.
For Facebook, Cambridge Analytica was the culmination of its early “Move fast and break things mantra.” The company may have become more responsible about people’s information and privacy, but that can’t make up for bad decisions and sloppy policing in its early years.
The scandal shook the company to its core, precisely because it brought some of its foundational processes into question. In righting wrongs, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is pivoting to privacy, and not all of his staff agree with his vision.
The result is some of Facebook’s most loyal servants left the company, after years of stability. Scroll on for the full list of Facebook senior departures over the past 12 months.
April 2018: The man who sold WhatsApp for $US19 billion, Jan Koum.
Koum, along with his cofounder Brian Acton, built one of the most beloved messaging services in the world in WhatsApp. The pair consistently talked up the firm’s attitude to privacy, and always said they would never run ads on the service, as a contrast to Silicon Valley giants Facebook and Google.
But when Facebook’s offer of $US19 billion came along, it was too good to turn down and the pair sold their firm to the blue giant in 2014. Inevitably, the pair came under pressure to turn WhatsApp into a revenue-generating business, and Koum quit.
Time at Facebook: 3-4 years
June 2018: Policy chief Elliot Schrage.
Elliot Schrage’s job was never going to be easy. He joined Facebook as its public policy and communications chief in 2008 from Google, where he held a similar role.
During his decade at Facebook, he often came under fire for the way the company handled privacy. After he conducted a “condescending” Q&A with New York Times readers in 2010, journalists compared the company to BP.
Time at Facebook: 10 years
August 2018: Facebook’s ethically minded former chief security officer, Alex Stamos.
Stamos, as Facebook’s chief security officer, was surprisingly vocal during his tenure. He often criticised the way the media covered technical issues, and particularly took issue with the way Cambridge Analytica was covered.
In spite of this, Stamos did reportedly try to warn senior Facebook executives about the danger of election interference. He’s thought to have quit because the problem was handled so poorly internally.
Time at Facebook: 3 years
August 2018: Rachel Whetstone, canny political operator and ex-comms chief.
Facebook’s policy and communications team has arguably seen the most change in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Rachel Whetstone, formerly VP of communications of its WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, looked like a smart hire given her deep political connections in Europe – but she left Facebook for Netflix after just a year.
Time at Facebook: 1 year
August 2018: Dan Rose, a former partnerships executive who left after 12 years.
Rose had been a longtime Facebooker and, he says, his departure had nothing to do with troubles at the company and everything to do with his family. His children had decided to go to school in Hawaii, and he decided to move from California in order to remain with his family. At Facebook, Rose had overseen the firm’s media, mobile, and platform partnerships and other elements of the business.
Time at Facebook: 12 years
September 2018: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the men who built the one viable competitor to Facebook, then sold it to them.
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger arguably built the one company that might have destroyed Facebook’s monopoly on social media. Instagram’s simple functionality and image-focused service was an antidote to the bloated Facebook app. When Facebook offered $US1 billion to acquire Instagram in 2012, the founders took the deal.
Six years later, the two left amid reports that Zuckerberg was taking increasing control over Instagram’s strategy, integrating it further with the main Facebook platform. “No one ever leaves a job because everything’s awesome,” Systrom later said.
Time at Facebook: 6 years
October 2018: Oculus CEO and cofounder Brendan Iribe, who left after 4 years of heading up Facebook’s efforts in VR.
Brendan Iribe was cofounder of virtual reality company Oculus, and joined Facebook when it bought the company in 2014. Unlike WhatsApp and Instagram, the success of Oculus is less of a sure bet.
Time at Facebook: 4 years
November 2018: The man tasked with turning WhatsApp into a revenue-generating business, Neeraj Arora.
It’s not wildly surprising that Neeraj Arora, originally a WhatsApp employee, exited Facebook the same year WhatsApp’s founders did. Arora was tasked with turning WhatsApp into a revenue-generating business, something that repeatedly resulted in clashes between the founders and Facebook’s executives.
Time at Facebook: 4 years
February 2019: Facebook’s longest serving PR executive, Debbie Frost.
Debbie Frost was, according to Recode, Facebook’s longest-serving PR executive having joined the firm in 2008. Her departure heralded a major reshuffle of the communications team, with the UK’s former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg taking the top communications job, and fellow PR executive Caryn Marooney also announcing her departure.
Time at Facebook: 10 years.
February 2019: Facebook’s top communications executive, Caryn Marooney.
Marooney joined the social network in 2011 having previously cofounded a tech-oriented PR firm, and was Facebook’s VP of communications. When asked about her departure by Wired, a Facebook spokeswoman said: “It’s been a really, really long time. I think she just wants to take a step back.”
Time at Facebook: 8 years
March 2019: Chris Cox, longtime lieutenant to Mark Zuckerberg.
Chris Cox joined Facebook in 2005. He helped build some of the social network’s most recognisable features, such as the news feed.
His departure signalled a major reshuffle at the company’s highest levels following Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he was going to make the company more privacy-focused.
In his memo announcing Cox’s departure, Zuckerberg repeatedly made reference to the new emphasis on privacy.
No one will be filling Cox’s shoes as chief product officer, and instead, the heads of Facebook’s various apps will report directly to Zuckerberg.
Time at Facebook: 14 years
March 2019: Chris Daniels, the head of WhatsApp.
Chris Daniels departure was announced alongside Chris Cox. Previously the head of Zuckerberg’s project Internet.org – an initiative to get the poorest people in the world internet access – Daniels became the VP of WhatsApp in May 2018, soon after the departure of cofounder Jan Koum. His place was taken by Will Cathcart, formerly the head of Facebook’s core app.
Time at Facebook: 8 years
TBC: Facebook’s most senior lawyer, Colin Stretch — who may not leave after all.
Stretch, Facebook’s longtime general counsel, announced his departure in 2018 but has reversed his decision for the time being, according to Recode. Stretch has decided to stick around because Facebook is still in crisis mode, but it’s possible he will leave in the summer of 2019.
Time at Facebook: 8 years (and counting)
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