About a year after Facebook reportedly joined PRISM, Max Kelly, the social network’s chief security officer left for a job at the National Security Agency, either a curious career move or one that makes complete sense. The Chief Security Officer at a tech company is primarily concerned with keeping its information inside the company. Now working for an agency that tries to gather as much information as it can, Kelly’s new job is sort of a complete reversal.
Facebook, among other tech companies, has distanced itself from the government, claiming it only cooperates when it is legally required to. But, “current and former industry officials say the companies sometimes secretly put together teams of in-house experts to find ways to cooperate more completely with the NSA and to make their customers’ information more accessible to the agency,” report the New York Times‘s James Risen and Nick Wingfield.
Before Kelly — who once worked at the FBI — took the job at the NSA, he indicated a coziness with the government. Three weeks after leaving the network in 2010, he made a speech at the Defcon hacking conference that argued greater cooperation between places like Facebook and military defense. “Commercial entities and the military are dealing with the same problem,” he said. “They should both understand their roles in the larger picture. There isn’t enough information shared.” There he was more specifically addressing cyber-attacks from places like China, which as he predicted has turned into a national security issue. But, his speech also indicates that he thinks these two, at times opposed, industries should work together.
It’s unclear what Kelly exactly does at the NSA — he might have a job that has nothing to do with PRISM. Though, the Times report suggests the feds recruited him because of his Silicon Valley ties. “To get their hands on the latest software technology to manipulate and take advantage of large volumes of data, United States intelligence agencies invest in Silicon Valley start-ups, award classified contracts and recruit technology experts like Mr. Kelly,” they write.
Facebook linked up with the NSA for PRISM in June of 2009, according to the slide below. Kelly left almost a year to date after that — though it’s unclear if he went right to the NSA. This Venture Beatreport calls him a “civilian” three weeks after his departure. The feds may have wanted him for hiscybersecurity expertise. Or, maybe that plus his connections made him the perfect NSA recruit.