In a symbolic move that sends a strong signal to the privacy community, Facebook has hired Timothy Sparapani, a senior attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, as its new director of public policy, according to a report from the New York Times.
The ACLU is well known for its vigorous advocacy of internet privacy issues. Recently, Facebook reverted changes to its terms of service after complaints from some user and privacy advocates, and soon thereafter instituted new governing documents and processes including a user comment period and, in some cases, user voting on proposed changes to the site’s terms. (The comment period for the new documents ends tomorrow.)
At the ACLU, Sparapani worked on cases covering national ID cards, data mining, and open government issues. According to the Times, Sparapani is also well connected to those critical of Facebook:
Perhaps most important for Facebook, Mr. Sparapani has deep ties to some of its loudest critics at organizations like the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Digital Democracy, which have been raising alarms about Facebook’s increasingly precise ad-targeting technology and its controversially revised terms of service agreement.
Sparapani will be based in Washington and report to Facebook’s chief privacy officer Chris Kelly when he starts next month. Kelly himself is rumored to be mulling a run for California Attorney General next year, but no official announcements have been made.