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Joseph Menn, Reuters:

A senior Apple Inc security expert left for a much lower-paying job at the American Civil Liberties Union this week, the latest sign of increasing activity on policy issues by Silicon Valley privacy specialists and other engineers.

Jon Callas, who led a team of hackers breaking into pre-release Apple products to test their security, started Monday in a two-year role as technology fellow at the ACLU.

“Jon has unparalleled knowledge about the hazards of surveillance back doors and is also an extremely effective communicator to the public, which is equally important,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Wizner said he expects Callas to help the group resist governments demanding access to company platforms for surveillance of users and to weigh in on issues including fairness and transparency in artificial intelligence.

Callas’ move comes after a year of unprecedented activism by rank and file engineers at Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc and other technology powerhouses under fire for enabling the spread of misinformation and government-led misdeeds.

Callas said he felt particular kinship with Google employees pressing to have more of a say in the company’s prospective deal to return to mainland China with a censored search engine.

“A bunch of people have in fact woken up and said ‘Where are we, where are we going?’” Callas said. “These employees are wanting more discussion and access to what’s going on.”

Paul Ciano

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