Feb 27, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: Facebook hire aims to infuse ethics into product design

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Facebook has hired the World Economic Forum's former head of technology policy, Zvika Krieger, as its new director of responsible innovation, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: In the wake of its many scandals and amid growing regulatory scrutiny, Facebook is looking to make sure it addresses ethical issues earlier in the design and engineering processes.

Details: The responsible innovation team that Krieger joins is not new, but has been growing in both size and importance.

  • The team is responsible for developing methods, tools and training that help address potential issues while products are still in the design and development phase. 
  • While Krieger helps manage the company's responsible innovation team, ultimately the unit (and Krieger) report to Margaret Stewart, vice president of product design, who oversees the broader Responsible Innovation and Design Core team.
  • Krieger's background also includes time in both the State and Defense Department, as well as nearly a decade as a journalist, serving as a correspondent for The Atlantic and Newsweek, among other publications.

What they're saying: Facebook confirmed Krieger's hiring to Axios.

"In this role, Zvika will support our teams very early in the product development process of new technologies and throughout the product development lifecycle to anticipate and minimize potential harm and ensure we are building responsibly. He will also oversee the development of training and educational resources focused on best practices and implementation."
— A Facebook representative said in a statement

The big picture: The goal of the responsible innovation effort, as Facebook sees it, is to add a dose of healthy skepticism alongside the optimism it still believes is needed for innovation.

  • CTO Mike Shroepfer talked about the vision at last year's F8, saying that the company learned a lot of painful lessons and needed to do a better job of anticipating the potential for misuse and other harms invited by new products. "We have to take those considerations in mind with every new thing we build," he said.

Go deeper: Facebook sharpens political ad rules ahead of 2020

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