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Facebook's ex-security chief explains why Mark Zuckerberg should pick a new CEO

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos on Tuesday contended Mark Zuckerberg should step aside as CEO and hire a replacement, suggesting Microsoft President Brad Smith as one possible replacement.

Stamos, who left Facebook (FB) in August 2018 following a series of data privacy scandals and now serves as an adjunct professor at Stanford University, made the argument during a panel at the annual Collision tech conference in Toronto, Canada. In addition to serving as the social network’s chief executive, Zuckerberg remains the largest shareholder, effectively wielding a huge amount of influence over the company.

Former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos at Collision 2019 in Toronto on Tuesday. Source: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“He [Zuckerberg] needs to give up some of that power,” Stamos said on Tuesday during a panel at the annual Collision tech conference in Toronto, Canada. “If I were him, I would go hire a new CEO for the company. He’s already acting as chief product officer, with Chris Cox gone, and that’s where his passion is. He should hire a new CEO that helps signal, both internally and externally, that the culture has to change.”

A widely respected figure in the tech industry

Although Stamos did not offer a specific reason for recommending Smith, the 60-year-old Microsoft (MSFT) executive is widely respected in the tech industry. During his nearly 26-year stint at the Redmond, Washington tech giant, Smith has been a vocal advocate for racial and gender diversity in the workplace, pushing for an initiative in 2008 that financially incentivized outside law firms to place more female and minority lawyers on Microsoft legal matters. More recently, Smith called for the government to regulate rapidly-evolving technologies like facial recognition.

In this Feb. 25, 2018, file photo, Microsoft President Brad Smith speaks during the panel Economic Development at the National Governor Association 2018 winter meeting in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Smith would certainly bring a very different kind of leadership to Facebook. Although Zuckerberg should rightfully be credited for transforming Facebook from a Harvard dorm room experiment into the third-most trafficked site in the world, the social network has been repeatedly criticized in more recent years for prioritizing monetization and revenue growth over the privacy of its users.

Over the years, Zuckerberg has also been repeatedly described as being more passionate and focused on product issues like policy. Internal Facebook documents published by the British Parliament in December 2018 revealed Zuckerberg’s cavalier stance in 2012 towards the possibility of data leaks — which came back to haunt the social network when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in March 2018. Facebook expects to pay a $3 billion to $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission for its privacy lapses.

Despite Zuckerberg and Facebook’s missteps over the years, Stamos said that Zuckerberg is genuinely concerned about Facebook’s role in society.

“I do think Mark is serious, that he really cares about what people remember him for and what this company does,” Stamos added.

How far Zuckerberg is willing to preserve his legacy, however, remains to be seen.

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