Dropbox defends appointing Condoleezza Rice to board

Dropbox defends appointing Condoleezza Rice to board

Summary: Dropbox experiences some more growing pains, but this time the hubbub concerns privacy and PR versus performance issues.

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Another week, another backlash in the technology world.

This time the embroiled party is cloud storage company Dropbox over what has become a controversial appointment to its board of directors.

That appointee is Dr. Condoleezza Rice, both former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.

The hubbub started escalating almost immediately on Wednesday following the initial announcement on Wednesday, one that was noticably more quiet given the media blitz earlier in the day for Dropbox for Business upgrades as well as the new Carousel app.

Dropbox also confirmed two other leadership hires at that time: the promotion of Sujay Jaswa to chief financial officer and the addition of former Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside as chief operating officer.

The situation could draw comparisons to other firestorms in the tech industry right now, ranging from the Google bus protests in San Francisco to the fury over Mozilla's CEO Brendan Eich previous donation to an anti-gay marriage campaign, who has since resigned.

At this point in time, it doesn't look like Dropbox is going to budge to users' fury, which has already spawned a group of protesters rallying around the hashtag "#DropDropbox."

The collective outlined a number of points as to why they think Rice should be removed from Dropbox's board, much of which concerns government surveillance and privacy concerns.

This is all the more heightened following the revelations about the National Security Agency's previously-secret data mining program, PRISM, which came to light last June via documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

In those documents, the datacenters belonging to at least nine tech giants were used as sources for the PRISM program. Dropbox was not among that pool, but it was said to be next on the list.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston finally issued a response on Friday afternoon, emphasizing the company's commitment to user privacy while also defending the decision to keep Rice on the board.

Houston wrote:

We should have been clearer that none of this is going to change with Dr. Rice’s appointment to our Board. Our commitment to your rights and your privacy is at the heart of every decision we make, and this will continue.

We’re honored to have Dr. Rice join our board — she brings an incredible amount of experience and insight into international markets and the dynamics that define them. As we continue to expand into new countries, we need that type of insight to help us reach new users and defend their rights. Dr. Rice understands our stance on these issues and fully supports our commitments to our users.

Image via the Drop Dropbox campaign

Topics: Privacy, Cloud, Data Management, Government US, Security

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54 comments
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  • Can't catch a break once you've been in politics, eh?

    Can't catch a break once you've been in politics, eh?
    CobraA1
    • No, you just need some sort of recognizable proficiency in some aspect of

      information technology, I would imagine. Hers was a degree in Russian history, which may be great for analyzing Vladimir Putin, but does little for the workings of a "cloud" provider.

      Considering that she was not wise enough to even have an idea where the 9-11 attacks might have been coming from, I doubt she knows one end of a router from the other.
      chrome_slinky
      • She's got some experience.

        "Hers was a degree in Russian history, which may be great for analyzing Vladimir Putin, but does little for the workings of a 'cloud' provider."

        She's worked for HP before; it's not her first tech business.

        "Considering that she was not wise enough to even have an idea where the 9-11 attacks might have been coming from, I doubt she knows one end of a router from the other."

        Feel free to enlighten me on the similarities between intelligence and a networking box, and what they have to do with being on a board of directors.
        CobraA1
        • When was the last time

          you went in to get a job in nuclear physics, or semiconductor manufacturing [for example] armed with a degree in history?
          chrome_slinky
          • Being a software dev . . .

            Being a software developer - I can get a job in many industries. I can get a job in health care because of digital medical records. I can get a job in the automotive industry because of industrial robots. I can get a job almost anywhere, frankly, because everybody has computers. It would not be unusual for me to work somewhere where I'm not familiar with the end product or service being provided.

            It is not actually that unusual to be able to get jobs in odd industries, especially at the top levels, where it's more about running the business than whether you actually know the business's own products.

            Dropbox was looking to expand their outreach globally. She fit the bill.

            They also hired a new CFO (who I expect knows more about money than about cloud computing), and a new COO (who I expect knows more about running a business than about cloud computing).

            And, as I've said before, she's already worked for HP, another technology business. This isn't her first experience with a technology firm, and sometimes experience is what counts over education.
            CobraA1
          • Really?

            I have a bachelor's degree in History and a master's degree in security studies--and more than twenty years experience in IT. Are you suggesting that I am somehow disqualified?
            jquinnjr
          • Well,

            We have a system architect with a degree in philosophy. We have a system engineer with a degree in chemical engineering. I have a degree in mathematics but work in tech support. And I do work with one database programmer whose brother has a degree in history and works as a DBA for a mid to large company.

            Who knows where one's passions lie? Just because you have a degree in something doesn't mean you can't be good at it.
            benched42
      • Dropbox is a business

        Dropbox is a business. She brings insight into different world regions, and connections that can help Dropbox grow its business.
        P. Douglas
        • Pollsters

          can do the same thing, and probably with more authority in the answers.
          chrome_slinky
        • Why not hire the whole Bush administration?

          Cheney and his daughter seem to have time. Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Chertoff, Bolton, Paulson probably could find time.
          How about some Clinton/Obama banksters?
          Let's round us up some CIA/NSA hot shots too. They can probably put the squeeze on lots of people around the world in honor of Dropbox.
          john.medcalf
      • By your reasoning

        Al Gore should be booted from Apple's board. If you want to go big, you need people with connections on a global scale. At least Dr. Rice has industry experience from her stint at HP. What exactly in Big Al's resume made him "qualified"?

        Not all board members are created equal. Some, like Dr. Rice, can actually help the business. Others, like Al, exist purely to keep Big Brother off their backs, so they don't have the Justice Department breathing down their necks. Otherwise, these companies would all get the "Microsoft" bi-annual lawsuit treatment; internationally as well. In the interim, Big Al just gets richer for essentially doing nothing. Al Gore types exists on all boards in the corporate world. Just a cost of doing "big business."
        Tired Tech
        • Tired Tech, I'm no fan of Al Gore, but you malign him ignorantly.

          You don't seem to know the purpose of a Board of Directors. Its purpose, is to have Big-Picture oversight on the direction and policies of the business it heads. To get that, it needs a diversity of viewpoints, so to discuss the issues that come up and reach a good joint decision. This diversity comes from proper appointment to the Board, of individuals who have en toto, the kind of diversity of views and experience, the Board needs to properly run a company.

          Where Al Gore fits in at Apple, I don't know. But I do know, he has no influence with the Government, since he's not in it. Nor should he be. You make it sound like his voice could influence Government in some way. Not so. He's knowledgeable about whatever, but it's merely knowledge, not influence.

          Again, the idea of a Board is to have enough voices to competently and jointly, govern the company well. That's all.
          brainout
          • Former U.S VP has no influence in government?

            You say he has not influence, but knowledge. My point being, what diversity does Mr. Gore bring to the table other than his government and role as a self proclaimed environment "leader"? Having him on the board placates the liberal activists who would otherwise be out for blood at Apple for the environmental hazards in China caused by the manufacturing of their products.

            Back to the original subject. What exactly makes Al more qualified than Dr. Rice who has tech industry management skills?
            Tired Tech
          • You really are ignorant, Tired Tech

            A prior head in a government doesn't have influence with the current government, especially when that former head is now in a business. Any contacts he might have, are immediately suspected of collusion. That you are ignorant of this basic fact, means that your comments are altogether not worth reading. GOOD BYE.
            brainout
          • Secondly,

            I never said whether Al Gore or Dr. Rice were qualified for the positions. I have no idea if they are qualified, but the Boards surely find them so, as they were appointed. That is up to the Boards, to make the choices. Not up to you, and not up to me. So again, your opining is of no value.
            brainout
          • Sorry for being ignorant :-(

            but I'm not smart enough to know that arguing with idiots only leads to name calling when they can't defend their arguements. I won't bore you further with reasoning and common sense on this subject.
            Tired Tech
      • Qualified?

        Just like being a Community Organizer qualifies you for the POTUS!
        hooper1026
      • Rice

        No, her BA, MA and PhD are all in political science. (She earned her PhD at 26, when did you earn yours chrome_slinky?)

        She also served on the board of directors for the Carnegie Corporation, the Charles Schwab Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, Hewlett Packard, the Rand Corporation, the Transamerica Corporation, and other organizations. (From Wikipedia)

        Apparently she's not qualified to be on any of these either, huh?
        benched42
  • Backlash

    Backlash?? Eh?? Didn’t know there was one. Did I miss the talking points memo?

    The real outrage should be that the radicals get to drive out well-qualified people like the former Mozilla CEO.

    Man liberals are so intolerant.. First Mozilla’s CEO now her. Where does it end??

    Only liberal racists are against her becoming a board member, are you one of them?
    1blogger
    • maroon

      "Only liberal racists are against her becoming a board member, are you one of them?"

      Now you're just being a moron. This has nothing to do with race.

      There are two types who might find Rice's appointment troubling:

      1) Liberals who consider her a war criminal.

      2) Libertarians who wonder why, given all that we know about NSA surveillance of private citizens, a cloud storage company like Dropbox would appoint a former National Security advisor to its board of directors.

      No doubt there are other reasons to oppose Rice, but those two are likely the biggest concerns.
      dsf3g