Amid Data Privacy scandal, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum Quits Facebook
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced he is stepping down as CEO, reportedly due to clashes with parent Facebook over user data, encryption and how to monetise the messaging app.
“It is time for me to move on. I’ve been blessed to work with such an incredibly small team and see how a crazy amount of focus can produce
Jan Koum confirmed he was leaving WhatsApp on Monday, and said in a Facebook post he wanted to spend more time “collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee”.
According to The Washington Post, which reported the tensions, advertising and revenue generation from the free app also contributed to the conflict.
In the past WhatsApp’s management has fiercely opposed advertising, saying in 2012 they did not want it to be “just another ad clearing house” where engineers “spend their day tuning data mining”.
Facebook bought the app for $19bn (£13.8bn) in 2014. WhatsApp runs no adverts, while Facebook’s enormous profits are powered almost entirely by advertising targeted to its users’ interests.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, commented on Mr Koum’s post and said he was grateful for “everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people’s hands”.
“Those values will always be at the heart of Whatsapp” he added.
Zuckerberg is already expected to reiterate some of the apologies he’s been offering in the wake of revelations that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm tied to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, to obtain personal information from as many as 87 million of its users.
In a reply to Koum’s Facebook post, Zuckerberg told him he would miss working together.
“I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands,” Zuckerberg wrote.
Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, though without ever devising a clear strategy for how that service would make money. Both Koum, and WhatApp’s other co-founder, Brian Acton, had expressed an aversion to allowing ads into their service, causing analysts to wonder if the acquisition would ever pay off for Facebook.
Acton left WhatsApp late last year and joined in the growing backlash against Facebook, endorsing a campaign that encouraged users to delete their profiles from the social network.
But few of Facebook’s 2.2 billion users have departed so far, based on the audience and revenue growth the company reported last week.
Koum also signaled years ago that he would take a stand against Facebook if the company’s push to increase its profits demanded radical changes in the way WhatsApp operates. In a blog post written when Facebook announced the biggest acquisition in its history, Koum wrote that the deal wouldn’t have happened if WhatsApp “had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.”