Facebook Hires Data Privacy Litigator Ashlie Beringer As New Deputy Counsel

Between its struggles with the NSA and negotiations with privacy regulators, Facebook needs a lawyer that can fight to protect its data, and its ability to use yours. So today it announced that its new Deputy Counsel is Ashlie Beringer, a litigation partner at Palo Alto’s Gibson Dunn and co-chair of the law firm’s Information Technology and Data Privacy practice group.

Beringer will report to Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, who was promoted from deputy to take the social network’s top legal job in June after long-running GC Ted Ullyot left the company. Ashlie will run Facebook’s 80-person legal department’s litigation, regulatory, and product groups, which contain about 20 employees.

Beringer might assist with cases like the $3 million permanent injunction and damages suit it won yesterday against Power and Vachani. In this situation Facebook sued the defendants for tricking users into giving them their Facebook log-ins, scraping Facebook content for use on their website, lying to users saying they could win money by inviting their Facebook friends to Power’s site, and sending fraudulent emails that said they were from the Facebook team. You can see the court document embedded below.

“We are pleased with today’s ruling awarding over $3 million in damages and injunctive relief. We will continue to enforce our rights against bad actors who seek to harm Facebook and the people who use it” wrote Facebook’s Associate General Counsel Craig Clark. Beringer didn’t work on this case, though, as her first day on the job will be November 18th.

Experience To Grapple With Regulators And NSA

On Beringer’s past accomplishments in the field, Facebook tells us:

“Ms. Beringer has extensive experience defending companies in high stakes technology and intellectual property disputes, with particular expertise representing clients in the technology, media, Internet, and entertainment industries. She has successfully represented clients in numerous consumer and regulatory actions relating to online and mobile technologies and data privacy and security issues. In addition, Ms. Beringer has successfully defended clients throughout the country in complex patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secrets disputes, including several disputes involving digital technologies, gaming and application platforms, and online and mobile advertising and e- commerce networks.”

Before getting into tech, Beringer was an entertainment litigator, defending reality TV stars including Ozzy Osbourne. His wife Sharon wrote in her memoir that “Ashlie Beringer has got balls of steel.” Facebook mirrored that sentiment, saying “We have always been impressed with her toughness and commitment to innovation.”

She’ll need that strength as Facebook pushes the boundaries of people’s comfort around privacy as part of its mission “to make the world more open and connected.” Facebook has wrestled with audits and settlements with the American FTC and the Office Of The Irish Data Protection Commissioner who oversees Facebook’s European operations. The social network has also squared off against privacy activists such as Europe Vs Facebook, which has fought terms of service changes and the abolishment of voting in Facebook’s site governance system.

Beringer’s patent litigation background could also protect it from more infringement suits like last year’s from Yahoo. Facebook ended up buying and licensing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of patents from IBM, AOL (TechCrunch’s parent company), and Microsoft to defend against the claims which ended up being settled with a full cross-license of Facebook and Yahoo’s patents. Beringer could wield those patents to fight off future attacks.

Most recently, Facebook has been pushing the NSA for more transparency. The company wants to be able to reveal more specific numbers around how many requests for private user data it gets from security agencies to show users it’s not selling them out to spies. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said onstage at our TechCrunch Disrupt conference that “I think the government blew it” in reference to how the NSA has handled surveillance and the Edward Snowden leaks. That might make Beringer’s job extra challenging.