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Facebook Deepens Ties with Intelligence 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.

What’s interesting about Facebook’s lobbying in D.C. is what it spends money on despite its small size. It was the only consumer Internet company out of Google, Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple to reach out to intelligence agencies last year, according to lobbying disclosure forms. It has lobbied the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — an umbrella office founded in the wake of Sept. 11 that synthesizes intelligence from 17 agencies including the CIA and advises the President — for the last three quarters on privacy and federal cyber-security policy. It has reached out to the Defense Intelligence Agency too.

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.

He said the meetings with intelligence agencies were similar. “We disclose this because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. (To be fair, Google and Microsoft also lobbied the Department of Defense last year although they did not reach out to intelligence agencies.)

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