During his recent apology tour, Mark Zuckerberg notably failed to mention recent revelations about the Obama 2012 campaign’s exploitation of the platform’s weak pre-2014 data protections to harvest masses of data from non-consenting users. The number of ex-Obama staffers on his payroll, according to Linkedin, might explain why.
The establishment media narrative on the Facebook data scandal hit a snag last month. They hoped the story would be restricted to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that they linked to the Cruz and Trump campaigns, and their alleged misuse of data. But a bigger story soon emerged, linked to a longtime media favorite: Barack Obama.
By the admission of Barack Obama’s former media analytics director, Carol Davidsen, the former president hoovered up far more data without users’ consent in 2012, when Facebook’s data policies were (as Facebook now concedes) far more vulnerable to exploitation than they were in 2016.
Mark Zuckerberg admits that, prior to its strengthening of user protections in 2014, Facebook made a critical error in allowing third-party apps to harvest data not just from users who gave them consent, but from their non-consenting friends. What he didn’t mention was the digital campaigning tools developed by Obama for America were among the apps that took advantage of this loophole.
In the words of Carol Davidsen, who oversaw data analytics at Obama for America in 2012, the campaign was “actually able to ingest the entire social network of the U.S.” Davidsen made these comments publicly as early as 2015, but they received little attention at the time.
In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica story, Davidsen made another bombshell admission on social media — that Facebook representatives visited the Obama campaign offices after the 2012 election and told them they were allowed to get away with it because “they were on their side.”
Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.
They came to office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.
In retrospect, this shouldn’t be surprising. Obama’s 2012 campaign staff and his subsequent White House team included several former employees of top Silicon Valley companies. After working for Obama, many of these employees returned to Facebook, some of whom now occupy senior positions at the company, according to their Linkedin profiles. They include:
- David Recordon, former Director of IT for Obama’s White House. Recordon was Engineering Director at Facebook prior to his role at the White House, and returned to the position after the 2016 election. He is currently Engineering Director for the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative.
- David Ploufe, President, Policy and Advocacy for the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. Campaign Manager for Obama in 2008, and still sits on the board of the Obama Foundation.
- Josh W. Higgins, currently Executive Creative Director at Facebook. Formerly Design Director at Obama for America.
- Aneesh Raman, currently on the Economic Opportunity team at Facebook. Formerly held a number of positions in the Obama White House, including speechwriter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Associate Director for Strategic Communication at the Department of Defence, and Speechwriter to the President.
- Lauryn Ogbechie, currently manager of Facebook’s Education Partnerships Team. Formerly Digital Organizing Manager at Obama for America.
- Danielle Cwirko-Godycki, Leadership Recruiting at Facebook, formerly a volunteer at Hillary for America and a fellow at Organizing for America.
- Meredith Carden, currently on Facebook’s News Integrity team. Formerly worked at the office of Michelle Obama for two years.
- Sarah Pollack, currently Associate Manager for Policy Communications at Facebook. Formerly directed media logistics at Hillary for America, and worked as a Press Advance Associate at the Obama White House. The first work experience listed on her Linkedin profile is an internship at the Clinton Global Initiative.
- Ben Forer, Strategic Partner Development at Facebook. Formerly a New Media Intern in the Obama White House and a Social Media Specialist at the Clinton Foundation.
- Bonnie Calvin, currently works as a curator for the Facebook GMS summits. Was previously selected by the Obama White House to curate their “Maker Faire” in 2014, aimed at celebrating “makers and builders and doers across the country.”
- Juliane Sun, Intellectual Property Analyst at Facebook, formerly oversaw verification requests at Instagram. Worked as an International Trade Assistant in Obama’s Department of Commerce.
- Anthea Strong, Project Manager for News at Facebook. Deputy Regional Field Director for the Obama campaign in 2007-08, and Project Manager for Voter Experience for the Obama campaign in 2011-12.
- William Elliott, Marketing at Oculus VR, owned by Facebook. Formerly a Community Organizer at Obama for America.
- Nureen Ehab Khadr, Marketing Specialist, Middle East & North Africa. Formerly an Organizing Fellow at Organizing for America.
- David Kaufman, Marketing Lead, Building 8, Facebook. Formerly worked at the U.S. Digital Service in the Obama White House.
- Sean Patrick Murphy, Talent Adviser and Recruiter at Facebook. Formerly a canvasser at Obama for America and an activist trainer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
- Veronica Rocha, Contracts Administrator at Facebook. Formerly Organizing Fellow at Obama for America.
- Giselle Hale, currently Director for Media Partnerships Product at Facebook. She was a regional field director for Obama for America in 2007-08.
- Melissa Lano, who has held multiple senior roles at Facebook including Associate Manager on International Elections in 2012, where she worked on the American presidential election. Formerly a precinct manager at Obama for America in 2008.
- Mercedes Krimme, multiple roles at Facebook including Project Data Integrity specialist, where she helped launch Facebook’s civic engagement tools, including Town Hall, Civic Checkup, and Voter Guide. Formerly a field organizer at Organizing for America.
- Matthew Holleque, Research Science Manager at Facebook. Formerly Deputy Statistical Modeling Director at Obama for America.
- Rachel Jamail, Site Lead at Facebook. Formerly consulted with the office of FLOTUS Michelle Obama on “high-priority marketing initiatives.” Formerly a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.
- Jane Lee, Strategy and Communications Lead at Facebook. Formerly Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Obama White House, and Finance and Operations Budget Manager at Obama for America.
- Zach Stubenvoll, Creative Director at Facebook. Formerly Designer / Print Lead at Obama for America.
- Zaid Zaid, Public Policy, Strategic Response at Facebook, formerly Associate White House Counsel.
- Nathaniel Kerksick, Product Design Manager for Social Good at Facebook. Formerly Art Director and Designer at Obama for America.
- Francesca de Quesada Covey, Head of Jobs and Service Partnerships at Facebook, formerly Deputy Counselor for Strategic Engagement in the Obama White House.
- Amy Seidenwurm, Executive Producer for “Social Good” at Oculus VR, a Facebook-owned product. Formerly a Creative Projects Consultant at Obama for America.
- Kyle O’Connor, Executive Communications at Facebook, formerly Presidential Speechwriter at the White House.
- Sharon Yang, Government & Politics Outreach at Facebook. Formerly Gen44 Finance Director at Obama for America.
- Melanie Roe, Technology Communications at Facebook, previously worked for Democratic presidential candidates and Democratic administrations since the Kerry campaign in 2004.
- Brett Brownell, Content Strategist at Facebook, previously worked as Deputy New Media Director for Pennsylvania in Obama’s 2008 campaign. Also worked for MSNBC and Mother Jones.
- Ryan Bushek, Technical Program Manager at Facebook. Formerly Operations Director, Florida for Obama for America.
- Christine Turner, head of Global Policy at WhatsApp, a Facebook acquisition. Held multiple roles in the Obama White House between 2008 and 2016.
- David Ginsberg, currently Director of UX and Strategic Research at Facebook. Formerly debate prep lead for Vice President Joe Biden in 2012.
- Matthew Warshauer, currently Head of “Data Science for Social Good” at Facebook. Warshauer was an intern at Obama for America, working on paid media analytics.
Hillary for America:
- Emilio Tamez, currently performs “custom research” at Facebook on behalf of advertisers. Formerly worked as an experiments analyst for Hillary for America.
- Joel Cohen, Client Solutions Manager for Travel at Facebook. Formerly Senior Manager for Digital Advertising at Hillary for America in 2016, and a Digital Advertising Strategist at Obama for America in 2012. In between the two campaigns, he also worked at Facebook.
- Ritu Sharma, currently the Emerging Worlds Liaison at Facebook. Formerly a member of the National Finance Committee for Hillary for America.
- Andrew Forrest, currently works in Partnerships Analytics for Facebook. Previously worked as Head of Audience Development at Hillary for America.
- Ashley Woolheater, currently Public Policy Lead at Oculus VR. Formerly Policy Chief of Staff at Hillary for America.
- Nellwyn Thomas, currently works in Data Science for Facebook. Formerly Deputy Chief Analytics Officer at Hillary for America.
- Emily Hahn, currently a Product Marketing Manager at Facebook. Formerly a Senior Product Manager at Hillary for America.
- Crystal Patterson, currently Government & Politics Outreach Manager at Facebook. Formerly Communications Director at the Center for American Progress and worked in Online Communications at Hillary for America.
- Marcus Raimondi, currently a Client Solutions Manager at Facebook. Formerly a Digital Advertising Strategist at Hillary for America.
In total, we found 45 employees who had previously worked or volunteered with the Hilary campaigns, the Obama campaigns, or the Obama White House and are now employed by Facebook, Facebook-owned companies, or the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. This does not include Facebook employees who do not have Linkedin accounts or neglected to mention past experience on their profiles.
Our search for former Romney staffers or campaign volunteers who currently work at Facebook returned just seven profiles. A search for McCain staffers returned one profile, who also appeared on the Romney list. A search for staffers from the George W. Bush administration or presidential campaigns returned three profiles. A search for former Trump staffers returned zero profiles —unless you count the Facebook industry insights lead who interned at Ivanka Trump’s company in 2012.
The upper echelons of Silicon Valley companies are awash with Obama alumni. Former members of the administration have ended up in senior positions, or as board members of Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Twitter, Nest, and Square, among other companies.
Facebook’s ties to the Obama White House are similar to that of Google, which also appeared to have a revolving-door relationship with the former administration. Andrew Breitbart once wrote of the “Democrat-media complex.” Clearly, there now exists a “Democrat-Silicon Valley complex” as well.
Facebook denies Carol Davidsen’s claim that the company gave the Obama campaign any special favors in 2012. A Facebook spokeswoman said, “both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook.”