Why Condoleezza Rice joining Dropbox board isn’t a Mozilla moment

Internet protesters are at it again, using an online petition and Twitter to lobby Dropbox to drop newly-announced Condoleezza Rice from its board.

On Dropbox’s blog, where CEO Drew Houston announced Rice’s appointment this week, there are more than 400 comments debating the pros and cons of her appointment. Some are coming to her defense but others are pledging to  switch to competing Dropbox services.

But this isn’t the Return of Mozilla.

Adding Rice was likely a bit of overreaching on the part of Houston, getting a “name” for his board. But it’s not an uncommon move, as we wrote this week, and is just the latest in a series of Silicon Valley-Washington ties.

Of course, it is notable because Dropbox was listed as “Coming Soon” in the Prism files about companies whose services the government had been tapping. Dropbox has been outspoken about the government’s surveillance program, something that Rice was involved in during her government roles.

Michael Masnick at Techdirt said Dropbox’s appointment was “tone deaf” and may be a huge “public relations disaster.” As it expands internationally, Dropbox needs someone with less baggage, he said.

The Wall Street Journal says Dropbox has run afoul of Silicon Valley orthodoxy and references Mozilla, where the firm’s chief executive resigned over a donation to an anti-gay marriage proposition. In a column, I argued that Brendan Eich, the chief executive in question, should have said more about his position.

Clearly, some people feel strongly about Rice and her appointment, as this tweet shows:

But Rice and Dropbox shouldn’t face the same pressure as Eich and Mozilla did.

First, she’s a board member, not the face of the company.

Second, if you care about privacy, surveillance and governments, as Dropbox does, it makes sense to bring in someone who not only knows that world but may have unique expertise.

Third, her duty is to Dropbox users and shareholders, not to the the U.S. government. If she does her job, she will watch out for Dropbox’s interests and perhaps push the firm to do more to protect its users’ privacy. If she doesn’t do her job, shareholders can vote her out (once the company goes public) or sue.

Dropbox may decide the noise around Rice’s appointment is too much and indeed drop her. This is a case where people should debate, sure, but also trust the company’s decision.

Above: Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a press conference in 2007.  (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)


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  • Ciaran G

    I think one important reason that you may have missed is that people are boycotting DropBox because they don’t think that Condoleeza Rice should be rewarded with a high-paying job at a large corporation after her behaviour in the Bush administration. Specific issues that people are citing are her support of the Patriot Act, her approval and continued defence of torture of detainees, and her involvement in the Iraq war.

    This is of course not a ‘Mozilla’ moment because the scenario is completely different in almost every regard, and DropBox are naturally going to be unwilling to reverse their decision to appoint Rice.

    • harrydevlin

      Dropbox can certainly appoint anyone they want to their board. Clearly Dropbox is willing to accept the consequences of their actions while Mozilla decided that the consequences were unacceptable.

      It’s a win-win. Dropbox gets who they want on their board of directors and their former customers move to another provider that charges significantly less for the same product. Everyone is happy. Well, maybe not the Dropbox investors and employees who now will make less money in the IPO.

    • JDSoCal

      Really, and should Obama Administration alumni be rewarded with private sector jobs after his drone murder campaign? Or can only Republicans commit war crimes?

      • Bill

        Can you list some examples?

      • Ciaran G

        I mentioned neither Democrats or Republicans in my comment. I’m equally as critical of Obama’s drone campaign.

  • ChrisSF

    Dropbox app deleted. Data moved to other equally functional services. Dropbox=MySpace.

  • stormyplanet

    Nope, I’m not going to trust the company’s decision at all. The only trust I have for dropbox now, is total distrust. Account already closed. Years of marketing and trust destroyed in an instant, and will be extremely difficult to restore… not that there aren’t fantastic competing services, so who cares anyway.

    • harrydevlin

      It’s amazing how one bad move can destroy years of brand building. The astounding thing is that after three days Dropbox has not fixed this. The longer it festers the worse for the company. No one will think any worse of Drew Houston if he admits his mistake.

      • nickyus

        But it’s not a mistake–it’s the true face of the company. I hope they don’t “fix” it. Rice should stay exactly where she is; we’re the ones who should be leaving.

        • stormyplanet

          Great answer. Best I’ve read anywhere on this subject.

        • harrydevlin

          You’re probably right about that. Dropbox did everyone a favor by letting them know exactly where they stand on privacy, lying, and the constitution.

  • Michael Bennett

    “Third, her duty is to Dropbox users and shareholders, not to the the U.S. government”

    How can the author *know* this. Why isn’t Rice’s loyalty to say RiceHadleyGates, or the other businesses she’s involved with? How can the author trust someone that helped *mislead* an entire nation into war? Especially when this person is essentially evangelizes the surveillance state?

  • Phil DeLuca

    “This is a case where people should debate, sure, but also trust the company’s decision.”

    That is an astounding level of naivete at best, or shilling for DropBox at worst. The credibility of the author just went off a cliff.

    • Ricky Vaughn

      It’s pretty clear this has nothing to do with business acumen or privacy. Dropbox just wanted a threefer (black, lesbian, woman) to ward off the shrill cries of the Social Justice Warriors who were previously hounding Twitter for having a board that was WHITE and MALE!

      This is actually a great troll by Dropbox on the SJW crowd. They chose the one black lesbian woman who is a right winger. LOL!

  • harrydevlin

    The CEO needs to act fast to mitigate damage to the Dropbox brand. The longer he waits to fix this issue the worse it will get. This is too big of an issue to go away on its own. You don’t want to be wrecking your brand just prior to your IPO. He owes it to his employees to maximize the cash generated by the IPO with the highest share price possible.

    Houston has given people a reason to go look at alternative providers of the services that Dropbox provides, Dropbox is one of the most expensive providers of these types of service and their free account has the least amount of storage. Dropbox’s competitors are lining up to grab the customers that are upset with the appointment of Rice.

    There will be Harvard Business School studies of this incident used in business schools as an example of how to destroy your brand in just a few days.

    Rice has been marketed as this super brilliant achiever that everyone is supposed to adore and respect. Drew Houston may have fallen for the hype without realizing how widely Rice is despised by the tech community specifically, and by most Americans in general.

    • JDSoCal

      Most Americans despise Rice? WTF are you taking about, libtard?

      As if Hillary Ambassador Murderer Clinton was a better SecState.

  • repsak

    “F-ing ignorant, hypocrites. The “good guys” supported by most here: Hillary, Barrack, Pelosi, Reid, etc. have all supported the creation, implementation, continuation and expansion of the Patriot Act. Six years into the Obama Administration the foreign torture houses still are torturing, the NSA is actively spying on us an our allies, Guantanamo still houses prisoners who have never been charged with a crime. Condi Rice is a war criminal? The Obama administration routinely uses drones which incinerate families going about their business in Yemen and Pakistan. When did we declare war on Pakistan or Yemen?
    Under the Obama Administration an Americans can be (and have been) assassinated “legally” for merely being suspected of having connections to terrorism. while abroad.
    Most of us here are acting like a bleating sheep that have swallowed the Koolaid.

    • Johhny B Good

      As a liberal, I have to agree with you. The Obama administration has gotten off sickeningly easy by Democrats and Liberals. But, I believe BOTH positions. I know, crazy concept! It’s not always about me vs. you, or us vs. them. I hope the nation as a whole starts grasping that concept.

    • Bill

      No one here is defending Democrats. They’re both evil.

  • Eric W

    With all the far superior services out there, why would anyone choose this mediocre service always? Thier IPO, if the company doesn’t fall apart by then, is a shame that the employees will be hurt the most.

  • nickyus

    If I remember correctly, Dropbox uses Amazon’s storage systems to store its files; and Amazon is a big contractor for the CIA. How clearly do they have to spell it out? The rich and arrogant sometimes get careless and overplay their hand–which maybe happened here. It’s a blessing in disguise. Like others here, I closed my account within 30 seconds, and started aerating the room. As for the writer…she’s just another zombie from Dawn of the Dead. They’re everywhere.

  • witch_hunt

    Fast forward ten years…Obama is appointed to the Board of a corporation. There is outrage from his detractors and they boycott the corporation. Is this racism?

    • reynoldsdhq

      This is not a question of race or gender equality. This has nothing to do with the anger surrounding Condoleezzas addition to the Dropbox board. Users are upset because they feel uneasy about having someone like Condoleezza involved with a company that deals with the privacy and security of user and business data (especially after the NSA chaos). If an African American female from the tech industry were put in this position, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      • Rodney Thomas

        But you missed witch_hunt’s point. The left makes a big deal now that anyone that opposes Obama is only doing so on the basis of his race. So, opposing Condi should have the same reaction. It doesn’t, though, because she’s a conservative. People dropping Dropbox because of Condi should be accused of being racist–but the argument is not consistent.

      • JDSoCal

        Racist and sexist!

  • TheNewsIsBroken

    Condi In. I’m out. Done.

    • JDSoCal


  • pureabsolute

    Nice! I thought I’d have to cancel DropBox, just like I downloaded Opera immediately after the Brandon Eich thing. But no — they did a very courageous thing, which makes me think that they are in it for the long haul. I don’t mind that they’ve hired her or that she’s been political. Although in her case there isn’t really much to be angry about. Al Gore is on Apple’s board, and I’m Ok with that. Not knowing what kind of advice either one gives to their fellow board members…

  • Jacob King

    What a strange move this was. I don’t have Dropbox anymore, and I’m certainly not thinking about going back.

  • karinagw

    I don’t have a huge (reasonably good-sized, but not huge) with her for the reasons you choose to explain away. What entertains me is your inclusion of the graphic that illustrates what drove me away with no comment upon that aspect of the woman. Not a huge fan of someone who advocates torture as a way of doing business. That is what indicates a distinct lack of both ethics and morals in my book. And, it’s that fact that causes me to doubt the ethics and morals of Dropbox.

  • Betsy Tudor

    Anybody who is a Republican or has Republican friends or has ever voted for a Republican or is sympathetic to a single Republican idea is now going to be the object of an internet boycott.

    • Johhny B Good

      That’s not what it’s about at all. It’s about Rice’s personal history, which is different from most Republicans, and troubling to many people. I say this as a Liberal.

    • harrydevlin

      I have voted for Republicans on several occasions even though I am not a Republican. I vote for the person, not the party. True, it’s very rare that a Republican candidate is less bad than a Democratic candidate, but it does happen.

      People aren’t upset with Rice because she’s a Republican, they’re upset with her because of her history.

  • WMDlololol

    Is it true Rice is Working in the privacy department?

  • Johhny B Good

    It’s about trust. In a world where it’s almost impossible for the public to get factual data on what websites and services are sharing data and which aren’t, this move has caused me to not trust Dropbox. I just deleted my account 30 minutes ago, and won’t be back. Course, who knows what other services leak data, but, it’s the principle also..

  • Baghdad Blues

    I’m dumping dropbox. Is the idea to make the user experience similar to that currently “enjoyed” by inhabitants of Baghdad? Rice proved herself totally incompetent as a manager following the Iraq invasion. At a point when it wasn’t yet “too late” – she simply ignored the advice from policy experts who didn’t share her naive view that “privatisation and the New Jersey driving code” are what Iraq needs. What kind of foreign market wants to see an incompetent imperialist spearheading this company’s efforts?

    • JDSoCal

      Well, thankfully Obama pulled out wins in Iraq and Afghanistan with his competence. Oh, wait…

  • appliance5000

    She is a war criminal and her actions lead to the deaths of thousands of American’s and countless thousands of others. Besides that I’m glad they got a “name”.

    • JDSoCal

      As opposed to Obama and his drone-murdering of civilians?

      • appliance5000

        I guess it’s fine then.

  • JDSoCal

    I’m going to sign up with DropBox as a counter to the lib-fascists who think they can run anyone they disagree with out of a job. F U liberals! You do not run American Business!

    • Phil DeLuca

      Methinks we have found the shill, or someone ignorant enough not to understand this is about not wanting someone *in favor* of the Government invading our privacy on the board of a company that, among other things, prides itself on the sanctity of one’s data stored with them. Political stance has nothing direct to do with any of this.

      Not that DropBox has ever been great at it… but someone who would take a stand *against* invasion or privacy is better than someone who *helped usher in* the most invasive programs in the history of government snooping,

      • JDSoCal

        Go do the anatomically impossible, jagoff. I’ve never used dropbox. I just hate the left and their intolerance.

        Funny how nobody ever complained about Al Gore on Apple’s board.

    • AFV

      So torture and lying about the reasons for war are virtues you look for in a political party? I’m guessing willful ignorance is a family trait you refuse to give up on as well. Keep the gene alive my friend, keep it alive.

    • johnqeniac

      Condi? Is that you?

  • Bill

    Haha no. Time to drop Dropbox. Even if they dump her, going public always results in a service becoming crappy.

  • Guest

    If we don’t act now to safeguard our privacy, we could all become victims of identity theft by the Big Brother.

    Make a difference Today


  • macomment

    I’ve personally attended a security conference with retired general Hayden as the keynote speaker. This is the guy that The Bush/Condy team tabbed to put the Patriot Act surveillance practices into action. Even though he’s departed government service, he still wholeheartedly believes that mass surveillance of everyone is called for and that the government is doing us a grand favor. I can’t help but believe that Condy holds the same ideals … How else could she sleep at night? Dropbox made a huge mistake and they’d be wise to convince Rice to step away before the fallout gets any worse.

  • AFV

    “Isn’t yet”, none of my politically savvy tech friends have let this news go. They’ve all dropped Dropbox. The ones who didn’t do it immediately are exploring other cloud options. This news fresh. Let it sink in before jumping to conclusions.

  • Pedro Lopez

    Liberals are the scum of the earth.

  • Pedro Lopez

    If liberals fought WWII we would all be speaking German now.

  • schtickmeister

    Iraq? 4500 dead? Torture okay? Bin Laden determined to strike USA ignored? How about the fact she’s a war criminal? Is money all that matters?