Whittaker worked at Google for more than a decade and helped organise an employee walkout in 2018 to highlight important issues.
Encrypted messaging app Signal has appointed former Google manager Meredith Whittaker to be its first president.
In the newly created role, Whittaker will work with Signal’s leadership to help the company grow, with a focus on guiding its strategy, ensuring financial sustainability and broadening public communications.
Whittaker is set to step into the role on 12 September. She joined the company’s board of directors in 2020 and described the appointment as a “happy step on a long continuum”.
“Signal’s developers and designers created an app that honours people’s needs and expectations, while maintaining strict privacy promises,” Whittaker said in a blogpost. “This is something that’s incredibly difficult to do, and that reflects significant vision and humility.”
Whittaker joined Google during its meteoric rise in 2006, becoming a Google Cloud program manager and founding the company’s Open Research Group.
She rose to prominence in 2018 when she helped lead a mass walkout of 20,000 Google employees. This group protested a number of issues with the company such as sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a non-inclusive workplace culture.
Prior to leaving Google in 2019, Whittaker claimed she faced retaliation by Google for her role in the walkouts, in the form of exclusion and threats of demotion. She told SiliconRepublic.com in 2019 that she was not the only case.
“Google and the tech industry at large has a culture of retaliation that makes it very difficult for people to speak up,” Whittaker said.
When she left Google, Whittaker went on to focus on harmful AI and co-founded the AI Now Institute.
She has also advised various organisations about AI, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the White House in the US, as well as the European Parliament.
Speaking on her new role with Signal, Whittaker said the team behind the app put people and their needs “at the core of their commitments”.
“I believe that Signal is core infrastructure whose growth and stability is imperative for a liveable future,” Whittaker said. “And as Signal’s president, I will do everything I can to build on Signal’s firm foundation and vision, and to create a rich soil where Signal can continue to grow and thrive.”
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.