Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the UK, is joining Facebook as its new head of global affairs and communications. The hire indicates the tech giant’s need to navigate choppy waters in terms of government regulation, especially in Europe, in the wake of several scandals over its manipulation of user data.
Clegg, 51, will replace Elliot Shrage, who said in June he was stepping down after 10 years at the company. After working in Facebook’s London office initially, Clegg is expected to move to Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters in the new year.
The Financial Times reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally recruited Clegg and promised he would have a role in shaping the company’s strategy. He is the most senior outsider to join the company’s leadership team since 2014, when former PayPal president David Marcus was recruited to run Messenger.
The decision to hire Clegg, a former European Commission trade negotiator, suggests Facebook is trying to smooth relations in Brussels. Facebook has been hit with multiple fines in Europe over actions by its messaging service WhatsApp. Early this year it faced global scrutiny over its affiliation with Cambridge Analytica, the now-shuttered data firm that harvested information about as many as 87 million users without consent.
The resulting scandal, which was amplified by Cambridge’s role in Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, dented Facebook’s stock and prompted a media apology tour by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, has also been called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee due to concerns about foreign entities putting the social network to nefarious use.
Schrage and his communications colleague, Rachel Whetstone, both departed the company in the summer as it continued to face harsh scrutiny. Whetstone, a Brit whose husband, Steve Hilton, is a former adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, was appointed head of communications for Netflix.