Facebook is on Capitol Hill talking about online privacy - again.
CBS News reports the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, comes on the heels of a similar meeting with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt last week. This time lawmakers are specifically focused on children's privacy. Rep. Ed Markey (D- Mass.) told reporters:
It's just about making sure kids get to grow up in an electronic oasis that does not come back to haunt them and their families.
Markey co-chairs the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). In May, the congressmen released discussion drafts of their legislation addressing the issue, the Do Not Track Kids Online Act. The bill would prevent online companies from collecting information on individuals under 18 without parental consent, or from using that information for purposes of behavioral advertising. It would also require websites to include a means by which parents could "erase" any information that had been collected about their children.
On the other side of the Hill, Sen. Jay Rockefeller proposed the Do Not Track Online Act of 2011. Rockefeller's bill is more comprehensive than that proposed by Markey and Barton in that it applies to consumers of any age. It has support from both parties and has garnered praise from privacy advocates, in large part because it provides for the creation of a "persistent opt-out mechanism."
Online companies, of course, argue that too much regulation will stifle innovation and prevent them from growing. It's clear that the desire to avoid extensive regulation is precisely what is driving companies like Google and Facebook to devote so much of their budgets to the lobbying effort. According to CBS News, Google spent more than $2 million on lobbying just in the first quarter of the year.
That same desire is likely driving hiring decisions as well. As The Washington Post's Cecilia Kang points out, Facebook's roster now includes such beltway insiders as former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart; Joel Kaplan, a former aide to President George W. Bush; former Obama White House staffer Marne Levine; and Ted Ulloyt, a former counsel to President George W. Bush. To top it off, this week, the company announced former Obama special assistant Louisa Terrell will join its ranks in October as director of public policy.