Facebook CSO Alex Stamos is a human warrant-canary for the Trump era

Even before he took the job of Chief Security Officer of Yahoo, Alex Stamos had a reputation for being a badass: a thoughtful security ethicist who served as an expert witness in defense of Aaron Swartz, Stamos cemented his reputation by publicly humiliating the director of the NSA over mass surveillance.

When Stamos left Yahoo to take the CSO job at Facebook, people assumed it was just a routine high-level Silicon Valley job-shuffle -- but it turns out that Stamos quit after refusing to countenance an illegal wiretapping tool for the NSA, which wanted to put a rootkit into Yahoo's servers.

There's plenty of reason to worry about Facebook's role in the trumpist authoritarian agenda, which includes mass deportations and surveillance of all Muslims. Trump advisor Peter Theil is on Facebook's board, Facebook ads and hoax news stories were key to getting Trump elected, and Facebook has ready-made tools for all the spying that Trump could ask for (and then some).

But as Recode points out, Stamos attended a recent meeting of senior techies who have vowed to resist the use of their tools to help Trump abuse civil and human rights. And as Pando elaborates, Stamos has shown that he's willing to quit his job rather than be complicit in the kinds of abuses we fear from a Trump era.

The Obama administration formalized the Bush practice of arm-twisting tech companies into conducting mass surveillance on the US government's behalf, under seal of secrecy. The Trump presidency will be able to avail itself of these Obama-honed powers, to devastating effect. But it's hard to imagine that even the most abusive Trump DoJ appointees could force Alex Stamos to keep a job he wants to quit. They may be able to swear him to silence, but any sudden resignation from Facebook can be viewed as an indicator that the company has caved to pressure to assist in mass surveillance.

The question is whether Facebook continues to try to keep Trump happy when those requests start rolling in (see also: requests to hire fewer immigrants or, even worse, to share information on those immigrants currently employed.)

In that regard, at least based on past performance, Alex Stamos is someone to whom we should all be paying attention. And in that context the timing of his very public attendance at an anti-Trump meeting looks a lot like a shot across the bows of his own employer.

Should Stamos suddenly get “poached” by another company or decide to leave Facebook for some other unspecified reason, the rest of us should probably take that as a cue to get our data as far away from Mark Zuckerberg’s servers as possible.

(Image: Jean-Baptiste Greuze - A Girl with a Dead Canary, Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)

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