Google Privacy Director Steps Down
April 2, 2013

Google’s Privacy Director Steps Down After Two Controversial Years

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

When Alma Whitten took over as Google´s new director of privacy in October 2010, CNet noted that she was taking on one of the Google´s most important yet most difficult jobs. Whitten announced on Monday she would be stepping down from the position.

She will reportedly remain at the company during the transition, which could take at least a couple of months. It has been reported Whitten, who has headed up the company´s privacy division from the London office, will be replaced by Lawrence You, who is based in the Mountain View Googleplex HQ. This also means You will be closer to the Google X Lab, where new potentially privacy-worrisome technologies are being developed.

According to her official bio, Whitten joined Google in 2003 as an engineer and received a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004, where she specialized in human factor challenges for computer security. She was the co-author of several Google publications, including “Transparency and Choice: Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Online World.”

She was the first person to fill the role of director of privacy at the search giant, a position reportedly created after the company found itself in a handful of privacy controversies that included Street View cars collecting user email, passwords and URLs.

According to Forbes, Google is still dealing with the fallout from that debacle, and recently agreed to a settlement with 38 attorneys general. This includes a $7 million fine, along with a WiFi safety campaign. The company has also agreed to hold an annual “Privacy Week” for its employees to ensure those employed at Google understand that its products should not include secret data collection.

The company also faced scrutiny for attempting to pre-populate its social networking platform Google+ with Gmail email users. As a result the company faced an $8.5-million class action settlement and agreed to a 20-year settlement with the FTC that requires Google to undergo biannual privacy audits.

Whitten oversaw the development of the company´s privacy policies, which included consolidating its various policies into a single document. This policy was last modified on July 27, 2012.

Google has acknowledged Whitten´s role in crafting the company´s privacy policies and reaffirmed it will continue to maintain its high-level of standards.

“During her 10 years at Google, Alma has done so much to improve our products and protect our users,” said Google in a statement. “The privacy and security teams, and everyone else at Google, will continue this hard work to ensure that our users´ data is kept safe and secure.”

You, who has been with Google for eight years and previously worked at Pixo, Apple and Taligent, was one of the founding members of the privacy program and he will report to Eric Grosse, the current vice president of security and privacy engineering.