Will Facebook Privacy Fears Torpedo a Political Hopeful?

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Chris Kelly was the one-time privacy czar at Facebook. Now he’s running for attorney general in California. Will the social network’s snafus snare his political hopes?

Kelly served as Facebook’s chief privacy officer until he left the company in March to pursue the attorney general slot as a Democrat. While Facebook launched its controversial set of changes in April, Kelly’s opponents are still interested in getting at what role he had to play in setting Facebook privacy policies. According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s district attorney and one of Kelly’s opponents in a June 8 primary, fired a Facebook salvo in a campaign statement: “Was Kelly simply a fox guarding the hen house at Facebook? If Kelly couldn’t stand up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on behalf of Facebook users, how on earth can Californians trust Kelly to go to bat on their behalf as attorney general?”

A spokesman for Kelly told the WSJ he was uninvolved in Facebook’s April changes, which included making user interests, gleaned from clicking a Facebook “Like” button from around the Web, public information by default. Kelly began a leave of absence at the company in August to begin planning for the race.

While its yet to be seen whether Kelly’s opponents can make Facebook fatigue stick as a political talking point, its interesting that trust in the social network’s treatment of user information has fallen so far, so fast that this is even an issue to begin with. It’s also something to keep in mind for some of Facebook’s remaining brass, many of whom are rumored to have political ambitions themselves.

Also, its worth noting: Kelly’s campaign website looks a lot like Facebook. Might want to dampen down the subliminal connection.