Facebook’s former security chief Max Kelly now works for the National Security Agency (NSA), reports the New York Times.
Kelly, whom the Center for Responsive Politics lists as having donated $1,150 to the Obama campaign in 2008, also previously worked at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He left Facebook for the NSA in 2010, one year after the social media giant reportedly joined the NSA’s top-secret PRISM program. Kelly’s position at the NSA is presently unknown.
The revelation is the latest example of the growing fusion between so-called Big Data Silicon Valley tech firms and government. Indeed, given the limited pool of high tech talent, the lines between government and Big Data increasingly blur.
“These worlds overlap,” Explorist Internet upstart chief executive Philipp S. Krüger told the Times.
Kelly has previously advocated for greater information sharing between commercial enterprises and the government in battling cyber threats.
“Commercial entities and the military are dealing with the same problem,” said Kelly. “They should both understand their roles in the larger picture. There isn’t enough information shared.”
Less clear are the political implications of the growing coziness between Big Data and government, especially in the wake of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal where government agents targeted conservative groups. As the graphic below by New York Times pollster Nate Silver reveals, Silicon Valley employees overwhelmingly donate to Democrats.
Source: Five Thirty-Eight Blog/New York Times
Some exceptions stand out. Libertarian PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel backed Ron Paul, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman ran for California governor as a Republican. But Silver says that with so many tech geeks being Democrats, the party has “access to the most talented individuals working in the field.”
Whether such partisanship bleeds over into the ever-growing information access Big Data and government agencies wield and weaponize for intelligence purposes is uncertain.
Either way, myriad policies stand to be influenced by the cronyism between Big Data and big government. Silicon Valley’s flexing of its well-funded muscles in the immigration debate provides a window into its policy-shaping power. Furthermore, things like contracting with major medical technology companies for digitization of medical records as part of Obamacare, and expanding online education in schools and colleges, all stand to benefit from the crony connections between Silicon Valley and government.
As Obama told Google employees in 2007, “what we shared is a belief in changing the world from the bottom up, not from the top down.”