During this past summer, Facebook reportedly spent more than $6,600 lobbying California state officials to kill the "Social Networking Privacy Act." While that doesn't seem like a lot of money, especially for Facebook, it does mark the first push-back by a social network in an attempt to quash state legislature from imposing regulations over social networking terms of service.
The bill in question according to a MarketWatch report targets imposing civil penalties on social networks displaying home addresses and phone numbers of users under 18 years of age. The lobby expenses were uncovered in reports that Mark Zuckerberg apparently filed with the California Secretary of States' office.
The bill was introduced by State Senator Ellen Corbett this past February and passed by the California State Schwarzenegger & Willam GonzalezSenate in April before it was halted by opposition in the California State Assembly. Facebook's newly appointed lobbyist William Gonzalez will continue lobbying the state legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on privacy and technology issues as long as they keep surfacing in the state.
Senator Chuck SchumerThis is not the first time the government has scrutinized Facebook's privacy practices. On April 25, US Senator Charles Schumer raised concerns over Facebook's launch of its Open Graph and went so far as to urge the Federal Trade Commission to establish guidelines for social networking sites as to how private information could be used.
Schumer held a press conference where he labeled Facebook the "The Wild West of the Internet" and followed up by writing a letter along with three other senators to Mark Zuckerberg requesting that Facebook make Instant Personalization opt-in versus opt-out. (for more on this topic, see "Mark Zuckerberg, Social Media's Howard Stern")
Then just this past week, Facebook and some of its third-party partnerships with companies such as Zynga came under the microscope pertaining to privacy breaches. This time, reports indicated that the FB applications have been leaking user data -specifically Facebook UIDs - to Internet research firms and advertising agencies. In my post, "Social Media Privacy Leaks Creates More Detractors Than Promoters For Facebook," I cited Emily Steel and Geoffrey from the Wall Street Journal, in reporting that "the practice breaks Facebook's rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users' activities secure."
So it is not a great surprise that Facebook is fighting in its own backyard on the state level pertaining to Internet privacy. It is priority for Zuckerberg and his team to quash these types of bills in Sacramento, so they can show precedence once and if these issues escalate to legislation on the federal level.
That paltry $6,600+ lobby expenditure might be the best money spent made by the social network to date - even rivaling the $100 million dollars Zuckerberg donated to the Newark School District in NJ.