Apple has recruited the talents of one Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook employee who has become a vocal privacy advocate and one of the social network’s most prominent critics. He has been hired to work in Apple’s privacy team as a product manager.
People familiar with the matter told the Financial Times (paywall, learn how to bypass) that his role at Apple involves working with the company’s various internal teams to ensure that new products being developed minimize data collection as much as possible whilst protecting the privacy of its customers (Apple is big on Differential Privacy).
But who exactly is this guy?
Sandy Parakilas monitored software developers’ privacy and policy compliance at Facebook for a year and a half before he left the social network in October 2012. At the time, he warned senior executives of the potentially damaging consequences of the company’s data-sharing policies, but felt his concerns were played down.
“There is no such thing as a ‘neutral platform’,” he wrote in a Medium post in 2016. “Facebook, Twitter and Google all profited from this perversion of democracy.”
As one of the most prominent privacy advocates who raised concerns following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Parakilas agreed to testify before the British parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport committee. He told MPs that Facebook’s data-collection practices during the 2010-2014 period were far outside the bounds of what should have been allowed.
There was a lot of press at the time suggesting that this was potentially violating people’s privacy and that there were some real concerns here. It was a known issue. What has changed is that people now realize how many things you can do with large amounts of data and so now they are connecting those two dots and we have the current scandal.
After leaving Facebook, Parakilas spent about four years at Uber before joining the Center for Humane Technology as its chief strategy officer. This campaign group advocates for tougher regulations for technology companies and encourages “time well spent” online.
Strong privacy based on tight integration of custom silicon and software has become one of the product features that Apple likes to tout on a regular basis, especially ever since the company locked horns with the FBI over encryption and surveillance.
To highlight its competitive benefit, Apple ahead of CES 2019 pasted a huge billboard over a hotel near Las Vegas Convention Center, bearing the slogan “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” as a twist to the old adage “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
To learn more about Apple’s focus on privacy, visit apple.com/privacy.
Photo: Apple’s privacy-focused billboard in Las Vegas