Facebook Hires Lobbyist As Likelihood Of New Online Privacy Legislation Rises

This morning, Washington Post writer Kim Hart reported on Facebook’s addition of a lobbyist to represent the company on issues primarily related to privacy. The new lobbyist doesn’t exactly comes from a position in which he argued against large internet company’s ownership of private data. As Hart writes, “Timothy Sparapani, former senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Internet companies have too much control over consumers’ data. The self-described ‘privacy zealot’ didn’t join Facebook until seven months ago because he was uneasy about revealing personal information on the site.”

As the company grows, Facebook will continue to face scrutiny from regulators and privacy analysts making this hire an extremely important one. One thing that is clearly interesting about this new hire is that Timothy Sparapani comes from a position in which he was arguing the opposing position of Facebook. Is this an example of Facebook just acquiring its toughest competition or was this to bring a more critical perspective into the company?

It’s probably a little bit of both. With a lot of cash in the bank, one might consider this Facebook’s “first acquisition” since the Russian investment got involved. As I wrote yesterday, Facebook is already beginning to face tougher scrutiny in Europe and the company could face similar scrutiny here in the United States. With a rapidly growing domestic user base, Facebook has quickly become an easy target.

Just yesterday Chris Kelly, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, spoke in from of two House subcommittees on privacy related issues as they pertain to Facebook’s advertising system. Chris Kelly told the committees that “Facebook’s targeted advertising program is ‘materially different from behavioral targeting as it is usually discussed’,” Caroline McCarthy reported.

As Congress continues to inquire into the practices of behavioral advertising, Facebook is preparing itself for any types of legislation that may arise over the coming months and years.