4/11/2014 @ 5:27PM
Dropbox Unswayed By Anti-Condi #DropDropbox Campaign
Dropbox isn't backing down on Condoleezza Rice
This week, the Internet grew stormy over the news that cloud storage company Dropbox is putting former-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on its Board of Directors. The most intense backlash came in the form of a “Drop Dropbox” website. Created anonymously, it glibly summed up why people weren’t fans of Rice; this mainly boiled down to her membership on Team Bush, and thus her being part of the political cabal that authorized the Iraq War, torture, and warrantless wiretaps — the last one being particularly relevant to a technology company that promises secure storage of people’s documents. The site included Twitter and Facebook buttons that made it easy for Condi-critics to tweet and Facebook their dismay over the appointment. The site’s pre-written message directed at Dropbox’s CEO — “Drew Houston: Drop Condoleezza Rice or I will #DropDropbox” — was tweeted thousands of times.
When it first named Rice to its Board Wednesday, Dropbox said the former chief diplomat’s international experience would “help the company expand its global footprint.” Despite being hammered on social media for two days over the appointment, founder Drew Houston reiterated Friday afternoon that the company is “honored” to have Dr. Rice join its board given that “she brings an incredible amount of experience and insight into international markets and the dynamics that define them” which will help the company as it “continues to expand into new countries.” Dropbox says little about Rice’s specific experience with technology. She has previously served on HP’s board, so must have some fluency, but when Forbes reached out to her last year for reasons unrelated to this story, we were dismayed when asked to do so by sending her a fax.
The “Drop-Dropbox” protest website is encouraging people to take their business to alternatives such as Spider Oak, Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft cloud services. Some conservatives came to the company’s defense, with radio host Oceander Loesch suggesting that “progressives [were] trying to chase a woman from the boardroom” with an “again” implied. After all, there is a serious scarcity of women on corporate boards in Silicon Valley. Coming so soon on the heels of the Internet campaign that forced Proposition 8-supporting Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich out of his job, Michael Arrington took note of the “ideological purity” in vogue in the tech industry. Many of the complaints about Condoleezza Rice focused on things that are arguably irrelevant to Dropbox, with the big exception of warrantless wiretapping, which was in her purview as a national security advisor to President Bush in his first term. The other complaints about her speak to the fact that the politics she represents don’t line up especially well with the technolibertarianism we usually see coming out of the digital powerhouses of northern California.
Rice hasn’t said anything about the controversy though Houston spoke for her in his Dropbox blog post.
“As we continue to expand into new countries, we need that type of insight to help us reach new users and defend their rights,” wrote Houston. “Dr. Rice understands our stance on these issues and fully supports our commitments to our users.”
The blog post was titled “Our commitment to your rights and privacy.” Ideally, a tech company doesn’t wind up in the position of having to reiterate that they do actually care about users’ privacy due to a new Board member. Unlike with the Eich/Mozilla drama, this is a case where the online equivalent of a screaming fest is apparently not enough to force a company’s hand.
More important though than what the Twitterati in the U.S. thinks of this decision is the reception by the international customers that Dropbox aspires to obtain. They brought Rice on to help them enter new countries; Dropbox should hope that the decision is better received abroad than it was online.