What's the old saying? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That's exactly what Facebook is doing. The New York Times reported Monday that the social networking giant is snapping up personnel from inside the Beltway.
Facebook is currently courting former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, according to The Huffington Post. But, in the last few years, the company has also hired COO Sheryl Sandberg, General Counsel Ted Ullyot and VP of Global Public Policy Marne Levine from influential positions in Washington, D.C. Former American Civil Liberties Union legislative aide Timothy D. Sparapani and former Bush Administration deputy communications director for policy and planning, Catherine Martin, are also among Facebook's Washington contingent.
At least one observer thinks Facebook's move to develop deep connections in D.C. is smart-especially given the company's unique role in "redefining ... privacy and transforming communications, media and advertising in the Internet age," the NYT story says. University of California at Berkeley law professor Paul M. Schwartz said:
What they're doing is pragmatic, and it's pragmatic to do it sooner rather than later.
Privacy advocates are still concerned, however. Chris Jay Hoofnagle, privacy programs director at the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, explained:
The practical implication is it's going to make it more difficult for advocates to convince members of Congress that Facebook presents a privacy problem. One of the big points is to show lawmakers that Facebook is important to their own campaigns. Once that fact is established, Congress will not touch Facebook.
I guess it's not that politicians and regulators in Washington are Facebook's enemies, per se, but it still doesn't hurt to have a few mutual friends in the mix when a dispute does arise.