Facebook has announced that it has roped in a former Trump administration official, Jennifer Newstead, as its new general counsel. Newstead will replace Colin Stretch, the social media giant's former VP and general counsel, who announced his retirement last year.

“Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, said in a statement.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, Sept. 27, 2015. Reuters

Newstead currently serves as a legal adviser at the US State Department. She was nominated for the role by President Donald Trump and was confirmed by the Senate in 2017. Newstead has previously held senior roles at the Department of Justice, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget.

According to a 2002 Department of Justice press release, Newstead had a hand in crafting the controversial Patriot Act. A former Bush administration lawyer, John Yoo, described Newstead as “day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress", Buzzfeed reported.

The Patriot Act, which was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, drastically widened the US government's surveillance powers – a fact which came to light after the Edward Snowden leaks. It was also instrumental in enabling US intelligence agencies gather data from private companies without a court order. The national security letters, which is a part of the Patriot Act and is wielded without compunction even today, allows for data collection with little to no accountability.

The Verge reported that in the second half of 2018, Facebook recieved over 32,000 requests for such data collection. As Facebook's new general counsel, Newstead will likely be singularly qualified to either block or accept such data collection requests.

“I’m excited to be joining Facebook at an important time and working with such a fantastic team,” Newstead said. “Facebook’s products play an important role in societies around the world. I am looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues as we seek to uphold our responsibilities and shared values.”