Facebook has been gradually boosting its profile in Washington D.C. over the past year and is on the hunt for a second senior lobbyist to add to its office of four. Disclosures released a few days ago show that, on top of lobbying the usual suspects Internet companies reach out to like the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. senators and representatives, the fast-growing social network has also been busy deepening ties to government intelligence and homeland security agencies.
Facebook spent $41,390 on lobbying in the first quarter of 2010. That’s on top of the $207,878 it spent last year — the first year Facebook began releasing such disclosures. Although these numbers are tiny compared to the $4.3 million Google spent on lobbying last year, expect them to grow with the company’s influence and ambitions.
So let’s take a look here. Facebook is a company that raises privacy concerns just by showing up every day. Now they are talking to intelligence agencies on the federal level. That kind of talk leaves plenty of room for speculation. It is the only Internet company amongst the likes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple who is reaching out to the Office of the Director of National Security which is an umbrella organization established after 9/11. This agency advises the President and works with the CIA. So what are they talking about? Privacy and federal cyber-security policy are the focus over the last three quarters.
Andrew Noyes, the company’s manager of public policy communications, says most of Facebook’s work in D.C. consists of basic education — helping legislators and agencies understand how to use the social network for campaigning, reaching out to their constituencies and in their regular line of work. The U.S. Navy used Facebook to alert Hawaiians of a possible tsunami from the Chilean earthquake earlier this year, while the company says 35 government agencies are using social media for governance.
It also doesn’t hurt to start to “grease the skids” for future interactions with the government does it? Considering the kind of data that could possible flow through Facebook there is likely to be more than less interest in what is being said from a legal / criminal aspect. We have already seen that criminals aren’t always the sharpest knives in the drawer.
So how private do you think your information is on Facebook? If Facebook is “building relationships” in Washington and is the only big Internet player talking to intelligence agencies what could that mean?
It’s Friday so let us know what you think before you check out for the weekend.