WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton has called on everyone to ‘delete’ their Facebook accounts in an address to students at Stanford on Wednesday.
Now the head of Signal, a non-profit WhatsApp rival, he called for people to reject Facebook by deleting the apps from their phones.
He has been openly critical of Silicon Valley firms like Facebook and Google in the past for their seemingly profit-driven approach at the expense of people’s privacy.
In 2014, Acton sold the instant messaging service to Mark Zuckerberg for $19 billion (£15bn) and left in 2017 over its plans to introduce ads to the app.
Mr Acton defended his decision to sell saying that he wanted his employees and investors to profit and he didn’t have the power, or ‘clout’ to say no.
It is the second time that Mr Acton has made the comment publicly. Last year he posted on Twitter ‘It is time. #delete facebook’ following Facebook’s data privacy failings involving political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
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Brian Acton, pictured right with his WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, has called on everyone to ‘delete’ their Facebook in an address to students at Stanford. In 2014, Acton sold the instant messaging service to the company for $19 billion (£15bn) and left in 2017
Speaking at Stanford University in California on Wednesday, Mr Acton criticised Silicon Valley for making money by trading privacy for revenue.
‘I had 50 employees, and I had to think about them and the money they would make from this sale,’ Acton said.
‘I had to think about our investors and I had to think about my minority stake. I didn’t have the full clout to say no if I wanted to.’
The former CEO, who now heads up Signal, said that he did not agree with Facebook’s monetising strategy on WhatsApp.
Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s co-founder, also left Facebook a year later in 2018 because he reportedly didn’t agree with their approach to user data and privacy.
Both Mr Acton and Mr Koum had tried to find a way to monetise WhatsApp without bombarding users with Adverts.
He said that he pushed for a business model that would charge WhatsApp users $1 a year to use the app, as the company did in its early days.
The pair hoped a service model could align their interests with the users’ need for privacy and security to counter Facebook’s data harvesting to help advertisers target users.
‘It was not extraordinarily money-making, and if you have a billion users … you’re going to have $1 billion in revenue per year,’ Mr Acton said.
‘That’s not what Google and Facebook want. They want multibillions of dollars.’
WhatsApp founder Brian Acton has called on everyone to ‘delete’ their Facebook accounts in an address to students at Stanford yesterday. It is the second time that Mr Acton has made the comment publicly. Last year he posted on Twitter ‘It is time. #delete facebook’
In an interview with Forbes, Mr Acton described how Facebook had set goals for WhatsApp to hit a revenue run rate of $10 billion within five years by pushing ads.
He also spoke about the company plans to offer businesses ways to directly communicate with users.
‘The capitalistic profit motive, or answering to Wall Street, is what’s driving the expansion of invasion of data privacy and driving the expansion of a lot of negative outcomes that we’re just not happy with,’ he said.
‘I wish there were guardrails there. I wish there was ways to rein it in. I have yet to see that manifest, and that scares me.’
WhatsApp is developing a new security update that will mean to get into the app, the user will need to authenticate their fingerprint. The app has already been criticised for its unbreakable end-to-end encryption system, meaning only the user can see the content (file photo)
FACEBOOK EXECUTIVES WHO HAVE LEFT IN THE PAST YEAR
Facebook is notorious for retaining its top talent, but the past year has seen a steady dribble of executive departures as the company comes under increasing public scrutiny and investor pressure.
The high-profile departures include:
WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, who left in September 2017. He applied for a job at Facebook in 2009 and was rejected.
Acton said he intended to start a foundation ‘focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications.’
WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum, who left in April 2018. Koum reportedly clashed with parent company Facebook over data privacy and the messaging app’s business model.
VP of Communications and Public Policy Elliot Schrage, who left in June 2018. Schrage gave no concrete reason for stepping down, but had come under criticism for Facebook’s slow response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, who left in August 2018. Stamos left to join Stanford University full-time as a teacher and researcher. He was an an outspoken security and privacy advocate and had reportedly clashed with other Facebook executives about how much to reveal to the public about Russian election interference efforts on the platform.
Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who left in September 2018. The pair said they were leaving to ‘explore our curiosity and creativity again’ and had reportedly butted heads with Zuckerberg over Instagram’s autonomy and changes to the service’s features.