After Dropbox announced the hiring of former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, the Internet roiled with unrest: Could a former government official who defended warrantless wiretapping during the Bush administration properly advise a cloud storage company at the epicenter of the discussion of data privacy, especially in the current context of the NSA and its surveillance programs?
Many inside the technology community were angered by the choice. Dropbox, a company that was listed as “coming soon” on the first PRISM slides, has joined with other technology companies in calling for reformation of surveillance.
The least we can say is that the announcement of the hire was poorly handled. Dropbox agrees. In a short blog post published today, the company was plain: “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.”
The question is whether the word of the company will suffice to quiet its critics.
Dropbox is currently making a play to shape its products to better serve large corporate clients, a lucrative, large market. Chatter among some users indicates that there is at least mild effort from the plugged-in to leave the service; those leaving individually will likely amount to no more than a day’s rounding error on Dropbox’s growth, however.
But the plugged-in are often the sort that make purchasing decisions regarding the implementation of new technology for large corporations. Could the Rice pickup harm Dropbox there? The company is betting that any potential drag of will be more than made up by their new board member’s deep international experience and intelligence. Regardless of whether you agree with her political philosophy, it’s hard to dispute Rice’s credentials.
But for a company looking to secure revenue ramp and pursue an IPO, running into this level of community unrest must be unwelcome.