Xavier Careaga Franco – Meta
As Meta’s associate general counsel on the litigation and regulatory team for Latin America, Xavier Careaga has faced high court judges and regulators who pose challenging questions about the implications of new technologies.
And Careaga is charged with explaining not just the legal case of the company behind platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, but also its products’ technical features—what they do, what they don’t do and how to prevent their misuse.
“At least for me, as a lawyer, it’s not so easy,” Careaga says. “Technology is a different language from law, and it’s moving so fast sometimes. It’s very challenging to argue tech-related cases before supreme courts of any jurisdiction.”
His goal, he says, is to make sure the courts have all the facts, so they can make informed decisions. And he’s very conscious that Meta faces a dual challenge: It has to show its products’ social value to not only the legal systems in the countries where it operates, but also to society at large, which is very interested in Meta’s work.
“Because of the significant role that Meta and other innovative technology companies are playing worldwide at the moment, there are many topics that we are handling on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “There are many questions that need to be addressed, with everyone… And we need to have those conversations about where we want our society to move to, and how we want our relationship with technology to be.”
Having tough discussions to bring LatAm up to speed
Those conversations are not happening at the same pace in every country across the world. Careaga says Latin America is at a different stage than North America, Europe and some Asian countries in the development, creation and adoption of new technologies, including discussing and deciding the broader role technology should play.
From biotech and space engineering to artificial intelligence to encryption and blockchain, new technologies and frameworks are rapidly evolving in other regions. And Careaga wants to help Latin America get up to speed.
“There are many brilliant minds in the region, many amazing companies that produce technology,” he says. “We should avoid creating a gap between the region and the rest of the world. And for that we need open discussions and cooperation between the public and private sectors.”
Many countries in Latin America are riven by divisions between the very rich and the very poor; Careaga sees technology as a tool to address and perhaps even bridge those divides. It’s a necessary step for the region to take its rightful place on the world stage, in his view.
“In LatAm, some countries are a little more into those discussions already; some others are not,” he says. “One element of my team’s day-to-day work is to have those conversations. Maybe they happen in a court of law; maybe they happen in Congress, or before a regulator; or maybe they happen in an academic forum.”
Sailing uncharted waters
As part of the litigation and regulatory team, it’s also Careaga’s job to manage risk, which he says can be difficult. Much as he relishes a challenge, digital product development frequently involves uncharted legal territory and requires creative legal thinking.
“Consider I am in a company that is always innovating; the legal implications of creating new services and products are that many times we are in untested waters,” Careaga says. “So that is for me a very intriguing scenario, and it has unknown risks. You need creative and innovative lawyers to navigate those waters, to understand what a new technology, a new feature, a new product will mean in the face of the law and our users.”
Oftentimes, Careaga can’t consult nonexistent case law or statute because he’s defending an innovative product with yet-to-be-seen legal consequences. And while, as he notes, “Humans always try to build on the shoulders of giants,” there are at most faint similarities in previous cases or statutes.
“The stakes are high: We want to do it right, we want to create products that actually protect people, that actually help,” Careaga says. “And we also need to remember that technology is neutral. There will be good users that will love the products and use them as intended, or even better, but there will always be some bad users that use them to harm others. And we need to be careful in how we find balance.”
When he’s not litigating, Careaga has been working to automate processes in his department to save money and spare his team from repetitive and time-consuming tasks, such as the intake, classification, triaging and processing of litigation and regulatory cases. And he’s built fail-safes into his automation processes to make sure he’s covered every possibility.
Careaga has also been working on inspiring others to pursue tech law and encouraging fellow lawyers to learn more about technology and apply those lessons to their respective specialties.
“Nowadays, all areas of law are somehow impacted by tech,” he says. “We need more brilliant people to get on board.”
The path home
A 2012 graduate of Universidad Panamericana, Careaga worked as a junior associate at Baker & McKenzie’s Mexico City office from 2012 to 2015. He then joined Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights in 2015 and earned his LLM from Harvard Law School in 2017, specializing in tech law.
“I was hired on my commencement day at Harvard,” he recalls. “I received a call from Facebook, now Meta, saying, ‘Hey, you were selected. You are hired.’ And like two hours later, Mark Zuckerberg was giving the commencement speech. So he was already my boss when he gave the speech, not that he knows. It was an extraordinary day.”
Today, Careaga feels at home at Meta, where he is using his legal training to help shape the technology of the future.
“I studied law because I wanted to understand the rules of society, of how we manage to get along together—because that’s the story of humanity, the story of cooperation between people who don’t know each other and have nothing in common,” he says. “But nevertheless, we decide to build extraordinary things together.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2023 Edition here.
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