Adding Condoleezza Rice To Dropbox's Board Seems Incredibly Tone Deaf Following NSA Concerns
from the it's-a-competitve-market dept
Dropbox is probably the most well-known of the cloud storage providers out there, and it’s angling for an IPO. As such, it recently made some changes in its management, including a bit of news that is getting a fair bit of attention: adding Condoleezza Rice to its board. Rice’s consulting firm has apparently been advising the company for the past year, and the announcement says that the former Secretary of State will help Dropbox navigate “international expansion and privacy” issues. While she’s certainly qualified to help with international issues, it’s the privacy issues that are raising significant concern among many.
“As a country, we are having a great national conversation and debate about exactly how to manage privacy concerns,” Rice says about her new position. “I look forward to helping Dropbox navigate it.”
Except, of course, a big part of that “great national conversation” are revelations that involve warrantless spying — and Rice was a big part of enabling that warrantless spying. When she was Secretary of State, she defended the warrantless wiretapping program by saying:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Bush’s actions, telling “Fox News Sunday” the president had authorized the National Security Agency “to collect information on a limited number of people with connections to al Qaeda.”
Except, as we’ve learned from various leaks since then, the definitions that were used of “limited” and “connections to al Qaeda” in the sentence above are not the same definitions most English speakers would use. The program was not very limited and the necessary connections were barely present. Besides, to this day, no one has given a reasonable explanation for why a warrant shouldn’t be used in such situations anyway. If there really are a limited number of people they want info on who have connections to al Qaeda, getting a warrant should be easy enough.
Furthermore, Rice also authorized the NSA to spy on the UN Security Council to find out what they were thinking about the US going to war in Iraq back in 2003.
President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.
Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency’s campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.
As for Dropbox, there have certainly been quite a few concerns about how private your data is on the site. When the first slides about PRISM came out, it was noted that Dropbox was about to become a part of the program. And while the fears about PRISM are greatly overstated, Dropbox has been fighting against public perception over this for some time. Dropbox’s CEO, Drew Houston, spoke out against the NSA’s efforts at the State of the Net conference back in January, and the company recently changed its privacy policies to address concerns about NSA spying. The company has also taken a strong stand saying that it will protect users’ data against blanket government requests and backdoors.
Those were all good moves, that should have calmed many people’s fears — but to then appoint Rice to the board, and have her handling “privacy” issues basically blasts a major hole in that. I’m less inclined than some to simply assume this means bad things for Dropbox’s privacy efforts in general. But from a public perception standpoint, this move does come across as exceptionally tone deaf by Dropbox. People are already raising concerns, and a basic Twitter search shows a bunch of people both raising concerns and looking for alternatives to Dropbox. And, of course, someone has already set up an entire website about why people should drop Dropbox over this move.
At a time when people around the globe are increasingly worried about American tech firms having too close a connection to the intelligence community, a move like this seems like a huge public relations disaster. While Rice may be perfectly qualified to hold the role and to help Dropbox with the issues it needs help with, it’s hard not to believe that there would be others with less baggage who could handle the job just as well.