Facebook Executives, Including Zuckerberg, Visit Capitol Hill

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other company executives visited Washington, D.C. this week, the latest moves to fend of possible legislation around privacy and online advertising.

National politicians have begun paying more attention to online business in the last couple of years, with Facebook getting special attention around issues like privacy policy changes.

Zuckerberg’s first official trip to Capitol Hill included private meetings with politicians, including with Utah’s Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, as well as other members of the Senate’s Republican High-Tech Task Force. Hatch came out of the meeting talking about job creation, not privacy. “It was a productive meeting that underscored technology’s importance as a key engine in fueling job creation and putting the nation on the road to economic recovery,” he said in a statement, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, other company executives testified along with other technology employees from AT&T, Apple and Google at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing about online privacy where senators said they’d be eyeing new online privacy rules by next year.

Democratic Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said during the aforementioned hearing that he was working with Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, also a Democrat, on proposed legislation for 2011. Politico reported that Kerry is likely to have “the full support of the committee’s top Democrats,” who have been involved in several privacy hearings this year. Separate online advertising regulatory bills have been drafted by some members of the House.

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor also testified that vague legislation could ultimately harm technological innovation. AT&T’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy Dorothy Attwood and Google’s Engineering Lead for Privacy Alma Whitten had similar messages, advocating a loose regulatory framework around online businesses.

Privacy changes, security problems and other issues — along with rapid growth — have put Facebook in the political spotlight.

Facebook has been busy this year taking on the issue of online privacy, with other executives meeting with the Obama administration. Much of this prepping included hiring people to oversee global policy, D.C. legal expertise and even a California lobbyist. Of course Zuckerberg’s first trip to D.C. coinciding with Senate hearing testimony is also a part of the company’s committment to address privacy.

[Zuckerberg photo via Gabriel Bouys AFP/Getty]