The week seemed to start off on a triumphant note for hot Silicon Valley start-up Dropbox. The company held a media event Wednesday to unveil a slew of new applications designed to demonstrate its expanding vision as it marches closer to an anticipated initial public offering.
But the week is ending in controversy over this announcement: Dropbox added Condeelezza Rice to its board.
“When looking to grow our board, we sought out a leader who could help us expand our global footprint,” co-founder Drew Houston wrote on the company’s blog. “Dr. Rice has had an illustrious career as provost of Stanford University, board member of companies like Hewlett-Packard and Charles Schwab, and former United States secretary of State. We’re honored to be adding someone as brilliant and accomplished as Dr. Rice to our team.”
The decision to add Rice, who was secretary of State and national security advisor under President George W. Bush, prompted hundreds of often heated comments on the blog. And it triggered a campaign called Drop Dropbox.
“Choosing Condoleezza Rice for Dropbox’s board is problematic on a number of deeper levels, and invites serious concerns about Drew Houston and the senior leadership at Dropbox’s commitment to freedom, openness, and ethics,” organizers wrote on the protest website. “When a company quite literally has access to all of your data, ethics become more than a fun thought experiment.”
The site points to Rice’s role in launching the Iraq war, overseeing a CIA program accused of using torture and supporting warrant-less wiretaps. The site included a button to tweet the message: “Drew Houston: Drop Condoleezza Rice or I will #DropDropbox! http://www.drop-dropbox.com”
That indeed sparked a flurry of tweets and counter-tweets debating Rice’s appointment.
On Friday, Houston responded with a blog post saying that Dropbox remained committed to its users.
“There’s nothing more important to us than keeping your stuff safe and secure,” he wrote. “It’s why we’ve been fighting for transparency and government surveillance reform, and why we’ve been vocal and public with our principles and values. We should have been clearer that none of this is going to change with Dr. Rice’s appointment to our board. Our commitment to your rights and your privacy is at the heart of every decision we make, and this will continue.”
That post drew almost 200 comments by midafternoon, though, as many people continued to express anger.
“I simply cannot continue to give Dropbox my money, and expect I will have a new solution for my needs by the end of the month,” commenter James S. wrote.