Kevin Bankston Will Become Facebook’s New Director of Privacy Policy in June

He is currently director of New America’s Open Technology Institute

Kevin Bankston
Open Technology Institute

Facebook turned to one of its critics to fill the role of director of privacy policy, naming Kevin Bankston, director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, to man the position.

Bankston will begin his work at Facebook in mid-June, saying in a blog post that he intends to relocate from the Washington, D.C., area in late August and work out of the social network’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

He said he will oversee privacy policy in Facebook’s privacy and data use organization, which is made up of experts from throughout the company, as well as being tasked with growing a team that will incorporate privacy and responsibility into emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The addition of Bankston comes one day after the company added Jennifer Newstead as its general counsel and John Pinette as its new vice president of global communications.

Facebook deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman said of the hire, “We think it’s important to bring in people with new perspectives, including people who can look at our products, policies and processes with a critical eye. We’re excited to bring Kevin on board.”

Last August, Bankston was one of four experts to contribute to an installment in Facebook’s Hard Questions series about data portability, and he wrote, “Facebook has consistently justified its attempts to restrict sharing contact info as a privacy and security measure, but the alignment with its own business goals was always more than a little convenient. That’s rather ironic, considering that a huge part of Facebook’s meteoric growth was driven by importing contact information from other services.”

He explained his decision to join Facebook in his blog post: “I am not going to Facebook despite the fact that I have been a critic. I am going because I have been. Because I believe in the promise of what the company is building—that its products have the potential to connect people to information and communities that matter to them, and to empower people to communicate and share in powerful ways. Because I believe that it’s possible to build those products in ways that also empower people to understand and control their information. Because I want to impact the culture shift that is happening at the company right now, as it attempts to move fast and fix things rather than break things, and to put privacy at the center of its vision. And because in the end, and despite the scandals of the past few years, I believe that this company—which has accomplished the epochal task of putting free and powerful internet publishing tools and secure messaging tools into the hands of literally billions of people, and is likely to do so with billions more—still has the potential to radically transform the world for the better. I aim to do my part to make sure that happens.”

Bankston continued, “Of course, I can’t and won’t make excuses for the privacy mistakes that Facebook has made (and that I have criticized) over the past 10 years. What I can do is help ensure that they make the right decisions now, not just for the products that exist today, but for all the products that are coming in the future. I’ll be guided in that task by the same values that have always driven my decisions.”

Sarah Morris, deputy director at the Open Technology Institute and leader of its open internet policy team, will succeed Bankston as director.

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