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Facebook loses chief product officer, WhatsApp head as it pivots to privacy

Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer, and WhatsApp VP Chris Daniels are leaving.

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Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox is leaving the social media company after 13 years.

James Martin/CNET

Facebook, which has been embroiled in a series of scandals, is losing two more top executives as it focuses on building a more "privacy-focused social platform."

On Thursday, the company announced that Chief Product Officer Chris Cox and Chris Daniels, who heads Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp, are leaving.

The leadership shuffle comes a week after Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the world's largest social network is focusing more on private messaging and ephemeral content. In the future, Zuckerberg predicted, Facebook's users will be posting more in messaging apps than they do on their public News Feeds.

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Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox (left) is a close friend of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right). 

Facebook

Cox is among Facebook's highest-ranking executives and has been at the company for 13 years. In a note to employees about Cox's departure, Zuckerberg said Cox had been talking to him for a few years about doing something else but decided to stay after 2016 to help improve the social network.

Cox worked on some of Facebook's key products, including the social network's News Feed, and led the product and design teams. He also built Facebook's first human resources teams and oversaw the strategy for the apps that Facebook owns, Zuckerberg wrote.

The New York Times, citing people involved in the situation, reported that Cox and Daniels left after disagreements with Zuckerberg. 

Daniels, who became the head of WhatsApp in May, was apparently unhappy with choices being made around the company's plans to merge Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messaging. Cox also butted heads with Zuckerberg over plans to integrate Facebook's messaging apps along with other product ideas, according to The New York Times' report. 

Cox and Daniels did not immediately respond to comment. Facebook declined to comment on The New York Times' report. 

Facebook doesn't plan to appoint anyone to immediately fill Cox's role. Zuckerberg announced that Will Cathcart will be the new head of WhatsApp and Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app.

"This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future," Zuckerberg said in the note.

Cox and Daniels are among a string of executives who've left Facebook since 2017. In October, Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe announced he was leaving the Facebook-owned virtual reality company. Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, WhatApp's Brian Acton and Jan Koum and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey have also departed.

Cox posted about his departure on Facebook, but didn't explain why he decided to leave. He did point out Facebook is "turning a new page" by focusing more on messaging and encryption.

"It's a product vision attuned to the subject matter of today: a modern communications platform that balances expression, safety, security and privacy," Cox wrote in a Facebook post. "This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through."

Originally published March 14, 1:19 p.m.
Update, 1:48 p.m.: Includes more background and Zuckerberg's post to employees; 1:55 p.m.: Adds background about other executive departures; 2:15 p.m.: Includes post from Chris Cox. 4:46 p.m.: Adds mention of New York Times report on why the executives left.