The cost to protect high-profile tech execs is spiraling even as lockdowns have grounded travel to a halt. A new analysis of the security expenses racked up by Silicon Valley giants shows they collectively spent $46 million to safeguard their top brass last year. Of that figure, $23.4 million alone was spent on Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg's personal security, up from $20.4 million in 2019, according to the report by Protocol.
The company attributed the increase to new COVID-19 protocols and additional protection during the election. Included in the figure was a pre-tax allowance of $10 million and an additional $13.4 million for the Facebook founder's personal security. As a result, Zuckerberg far eclipsed others on the list including the world's richest person, Jeff Bezos, who paid $1.6 million in personal security costs. Signalling just how cautious Facebook is, the company's COO Sheryl Sandberg was in second place with security worth $7.6 million in 2020.
The results reflect the growing stature of the tech elite, who have grown more recognizable alongside the ballooning market caps of their companies, which provide globally popular services. Fame has inevitably brought with it unwarranted attention.
Facebook, which has been accused of everything from polarizing public discourse to enabling the spread of vaccine misinformation, has a right to be defensive. The company has previously noted in SEC filings that Zuckerberg is "synonymous" with the "negative sentiment" around it. In April, Facebook noted that its yearly assessments “identified specific threats to Mr. Zuckerberg." Other tech leaders have also borne the brunt of their notoriety. In 2020, it was revealed that Bezos' phone had been hacked via WhatsApp two years prior, potentially by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The security expenses list includes 11 individuals in total. In third place is Google's Sundar Pichai ($5.4 million in protection costs), followed by Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer ($2.06 million), Oracle's Larry Ellison ($1.71 million), Snap's Evan Spiegel ($1.67 million), Bezos, Salesforce boss Marc Benioff ($1.31 million), Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi ($849,000), Lyft CEO Logan Green ($599,000) and Apple's Tim Cook ($470,000).