A government official is going to join the Facebook legal team. Jennifer Newstead is a top legal adviser to the State Department, in addition to being one of the minds behind the Patriot Act, one of the most controversial mass-surveillance measures taken by the U.S. government in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
According to the report, Newstead started working at the State Department in 2017, coming from the law firm Davis, Polk and Wardwell LLP. As Bloomberg wrote, she also has other experiences with the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, and in the Whitehouse.
In a Facebook press release, the lawyer declared to be “excited to be joining Facebook at an important time and working with such a fantastic team. Facebook’s products play an important role in societies around the world. I am looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues as we seek to uphold our responsibilities and shared values.”
According to Politico, Newstead will take her predecessor’s Colin Stretch place to “represent the company in Washington.” But behind the hire, there could be reasons related to the growing scrutiny towards Facebook and its subsidiaries like WhatsApp.
Foreign countries are regularly accusing the social network of the increase in violent outbursts, attributed to the spreading of propaganda through these platforms. (see India’s riots, Sri Lanka and Myanmar’s genocide, as well as the interferences with the U.S. elections).
As noted on The Verge, her role will also include overseeing the company’s handling of NSLs (National Security Letters). In other words, she will deal with the requests for information that lack a specific authorization from the court. She will also manage all other data requests from law enforcement. Apparently, the volume of these requests has escalated ever since the NSA's forceful data acquisition was made public.
“Facebook received more than 32,000 requests for data from US law enforcement in the second half of 2018, and content from more than 20,000 accounts was requested by the FISA court over the same period. Little is known about the details of those requests, which are often subject to strict gag orders.”
Facebook’s new chief lawyer could come handy now that the legislators in DC are pushing proposals to regulate large online platforms. Furthermore, there’s a serious possibility that Newstead will be more compliant towards U.S. government requests to access data.