While employed as Facebook's lead Product Manager, Frances Haugen went public about the choices the company was making that prioritised profits over public safety and put people's lives at risk, copying tens of thousands of documents, testifying to Congress, and speaking to the media. After taking on Big Tech, she was hailed at President Biden’s first State of the Union Address and made sure everyone understood the dangerous practices that were being used in her industry. But how was it that Frances was the only employee at her company who dared to step forward?
Frances answers that question by sharing the inspiring tale of her life. Since coming forward, Frances has worked extensively to advance transparency within the software industry as a way to counteract the incentives that lead conscientious and well-intentioned people to build a social media platform with such extensive social costs. Her work has only increased in relevance with the explosion of AI systems and other technologies that are 'opaque' in ways similar to social media.
Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Frances is the daughter of two professors and grew up attending the Iowa caucuses with her parents, instilling a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation.
Frances holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College and an MBA from Harvard. She is a specialist in algorithmic product management, having worked on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, Yelp and Facebook. She was recruited to Facebook to be the lead Product Manager on the Civic Misinformation team, which dealt with issues related to democracy and misinformation, and later also worked on counter-espionage.
During her time at Facebook, Frances became increasingly alarmed by the choices the company makes prioritizing their own profits over public safety and putting people's lives at risk. As a last resort and at great personal risk, Frances made the courageous decision to blow the whistle on Facebook.
Frances fundamentally believes that the problems we are facing today with social media are solvable. We can have social media that brings out the best in humanity.