Facebook announced yesterday the expansion of their Washington D.C. public policy team with the hire of former CongressDaily reporter Andrew Noyes as Manager of Public Policy Communications. At just 29, Noyes has years of inside the Beltway experience, covering privacy, cybersecurity and intellectual property, among other issues.
One of Facebook’s public policy priorities is the pending legislation around online ad targeting and personal data. Noyes, who hasn’t technically even started with Facebook as of yet (He starts on 11/9 and until that point continues to be a reporter for CongressDaily), was understandably reserved on the issue. “I’m hesitant to really talk about how Facebook has handled it to this point or how they will handle it,” he said.
We caught up with Noyes via phone today to chat about some of the challenges communicating Facebook’s message in Washigton, what experience he brings to the table to do so, and how the company will continue to make use of social media (notably it’s own network) to communicate with the public.
In the memo announcing your hire Barry Schnitt, Director, Corporate Communications and Public Policy said, “Specific policy issues on the agenda for Andrew and the rest of Facebook’s DC office include enhancing cybersecurity and online safety, expanding digital privacy protection through user control of data, and protecting free speech.” What are some of the biggest challenges in communicating these issues?
Let me start with privacy and to some extent online safety. What you’ve got is an interesting mix of opinions on how these issues should be addressed in the digital age.
You’ve got a variety of viewpoints on Capitol Hill from different committees, the Commerce Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Obama administration has its own ideas of privacy and how to keep folks safe online. They’re obviously huge users of technology. You’ve got the FTC, which is very interested in privacy and consumer issues. They are the lead agency on this and they’ve expressed a lot of interest in taking a hard look at how companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others are using people’s personal info and protecting data.
You have so many cooks in the kitchen so to speak so sometimes messages get muddled. The biggest challenge is making sure Washington truly understands what Facebook is, what Facebook offers and how it protects user’s information. You have people who definitely know what it is, and how it can be used, but you have folks who may still consider Facebook a diversion of sorts.
Facebook is the largest social network. How will you use social media to communicate the company’s public policy agenda?
I think that Facebook has done a good job of alerting its members online when there is change in policy or when there are new applications or a new way to use Facebook. Every time there is a major adjustment to the design or to various aspects of the site, they let you know right off the bat. They’ve been good at that. There are certain things Facebook can do within its walled garden and externally, to educate people about these public policy issues. There is obviously a lot for me to learn, as I haven’t started the job yet. I am coming into the job with a lot of ideas on how to maximize the impact Facebok can have in Washington.
Your background is in journalism and you’ve specifically covered privacy, cyber security and intellectual property. What will you bring to the table specifically from this experience?
I’ve been on the ground covering these issues for quite a while now and so what I bring to the job is institutional knowledge of how these issues have evolved over time from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook. Even outside that, bigger privacy issues in the internet age, I’ve covered them closely on the Hill. I also bring a rather substantial Rolodex with me of Hill and agency and administration relationships that I’ve built over time. Also, my relationships and dealing with think tanks and watchdog groups and the inside the beltway players. A lot of times folks outside Washington don’t understand the relevance of grassroots groups, watchdogs and think tanks. They are major players in D.C. and I’ve dealt with almost all of them in this space.
I bring communication skills, writing and analyzing to the table. So hopefully I can make up in knowledge and word craft for what some may perceive I lack in PR background. I would note that I do have some experience in PR. At the tale-end of the Clinton administration I worked for the National Education Association and my main charge was communicating from the NEA their education technology issues.
Potential legislation around limiting how much data websites can collect about their members must be a key policy issue on the Facebook team’s radar. What do you see happening there, from the Facebook and government perspective?
Well, it’s hard to say. There are several proposals and pieces of legislation that have been either introduced or we’re expecting to see introduced in the near future. It’s something that Facebook and just about every other Internet company are looking at right now and at same time you have the FTC also weighing in and wanting to get involved in digital issues. I’m hesitant to really talk about how Facebook has handled it to this point or how they will handle it.