It's no secret that Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) had a rough 2018, defined by a series of data and privacy scandals. During the year, the social media giant lost 10 of its top executives. Some of the more high-profile exits included Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, and Alex Hardiman, the head of Facebook's news product.
Unfortunately, the company doesn't seem to have turned over a new page in 2019. Federal prosecutors are currently investigating Facebook for data-sharing deals it made with large tech companies. And just like last year, more of the company's long-term employees are jumping ship. But on the bright side, Facebook has said it's trying to fix things by becoming a platform that values privacy above all else.
Facebook is losing more of its top leaders this year. Image source: Facebook.
1. Chris Cox
Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox worked at the company for nearly 14 years before announcing his departure in March 2019. He started out as one of the platform's early engineers, working on the original News Feed, and worked his way up to being in charge of four apps: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Cox's exit seemed to imply that he and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg weren't in total agreement about the direction the company should take over the next few years. Cox said that Zuckerberg is focusing on an encrypted messaging network. "This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through," Cox wrote in a statement.
2. Chris Daniels
WhatsApp unit head Chris Daniels also announced his exit in March 2019. He originally joined Facebook in 2011 and had recently taken over the duties of former WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum, who left last year.
The WhatsApp messaging app is often praised for being a more private messaging service than Facebook's Messenger or even standard text messaging. That's because all messages, voice calls, and video calls sent through WhatsApp are automatically sent with end-to-end encryption. Facebook Messenger has an end-to-end encryption option, but it's not automatic.
Many believe that Facebook will use WhatsApp as a model for the more private sharing platform it plans to create.
3. Caryn Marooney
Facebook's head of communications, Caryn Marooney, announced her departure in February after eight years at the company. However, her exit statement made it clear that she's leaving on good terms and still believes in Facebook in spite of its troubles. "What makes this so hard is that I have more faith in Facebook than ever," she wrote.
Marooney said she'll stay on until she finds her replacement. Her position is more important than ever as Facebook is struggling with its biggest brand and image crisis since it launched in 2004. As Facebook shifts toward being a social platform focused on privacy, the head of communications will have a huge job: making a skeptical audience believe that they can trust Facebook again.
4. Debbie Frost
Facebook's communications team is taking another hit with the exit of Debbie Frost, the company's head of global communications and public affairs, in March. Frost has been with Facebook for 11 years, making her its longest-serving PR executive, according to Recode.
And Marooney and Frost aren't the only PR team members to have left in the past year. Facebook's head of public policy and communications, Elliot Schrage, stepped down last June after a decade with the communications team. He was instrumental in crafting Facebook's response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In addition, Facebook's vice president of communications, Rachel Whetstone, announced in August that she was heading to Netflix.
Facebook's communications team did find an energetic replacement for Schrage in Nick Clegg, who formerly served as deputy prime minister of the U.K. and is now the company's vice president of global affairs and communications. His political experience makes him well suited to help Facebook weather the intense scrutiny it's facing from Washington. Meanwhile, Schrage is staying on as an advisor to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and to help Clegg transition into the new role.
While it's natural for people to filter in and out of companies, especially in Silicon Valley, Facebook seems to be losing an unusual amount of its well-seasoned executives who know the company best. However, as Facebook attempts to enter a new era focused on users' privacy, it could certainly benefit from a wave of fresh minds and perspectives.
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Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Natalie Walters has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.