Vote Facebook for California attorney general?

Facebook's chief privacy officer is considering a run for California's state attorney general. Can he be trusted with the job?

TechCrunch suggests that Facebook's chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, will shortly announce his candidacy to become California's attorney general in 2010. Given how poorly Facebook has handled privacy, it's difficult to see why California voters should assume Kelly would do better in the higher matters of public office.

Specifically, California's attorney general is charged with the following responsibilities:

The attorney general represents the people of California in civil and criminal matters before trial, appellate and the supreme courts of California and the United States. The attorney general also serves as legal counsel to state officers and, with few exceptions, to state agencies, boards and commissions...

The attorney general also assists district attorneys, local law enforcement, and federal and international criminal justice agencies in the administration of justice...

In addition, the attorney general establishes and operates projects and programs to protect Californians from fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities that victimize consumers or threaten public safety, and enforces laws that safeguard the environment and natural resources.

Kelly is an experienced and competent attorney, having worked at Baker & Mckenzie and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosatti before joining Facebook. But if he's in any way implicated in Facebook's failed foray into consumer privacy (Beacon, anyone?), and he will be by virtue of throwing his hat in the campaign ring, he needs to answer for his involvement in Facebook's privacy faux-pas before California voters should vote him their trust.

He has answered critics before, and it's possible that being on the front line of electronic privacy issues actually makes him a better candidate than most, even despite missteps. But he first needs to demonstrate that he's done more good than harm relative to protecting people from "fraudulent, unfair, and illegal activities" on Facebook before attempting to protect the broader California public as attorney general.

It's very possible that he can, but I've yet to hear that campaign speech.

About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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