Facebook has hired two former White House Bush aides to help it to better influence the debate raging in Washington right now over how privacy regulations should be overhauled in the age of social media.
“It’s imperative that we scale our policy team so that we have the resources in place to demonstrate to policymakers that we are industry leaders in privacy, data security and safety,” said Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman in an e-mailed statement.
The two hires are Joel Kaplan (pictured at left,) President Bush’s former deputy chief of staff in the White House, and Myriah Jordan (not pictured,) who worked for Bush in the chief of staff’s office.
Facebook says that Kaplan will oversee its public policy strategy. His presence should make for some interesting conversations in Facebook’s DC offices — one of his new colleagues will be Tim Sparapani, who came to Facebook from the American Civil Liberties Union’s DC office, where he was a privacy advocate.
For his part, Kaplan, a Harvard Law School graduate and former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, worked with Bush to enact the USA PATRIOT Act.
Most recently, he was a lobbyist at Texas utility company Energy Future Holdings.
As a policy manager, Myriah Jordan’s “primary focus” will be to lobby congress with Sparapani.
She comes to Facebook from Sen. Richard Burr, (R-N.C.)’s office, where she was general counsel. Her issues included intelligence and national security, constitutional law, technology, trade and immigration.
Congress imposes a few lobbying limits on staffers (most often they can’t lobby the senator they worked for directly for two years,) but there isn’t a blanket limit on lobbying congress generally.
Facebook has been gearing up its lobbying operations over the past six months, according to the Wall Street Journal: it’s hired two outside lobbying firms and four new DC staff members.
It’s going to need all the help it can get since it faces a skeptical audience on Capitol Hill.
For his part, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in an appearance at the eG8 Forum in Paris on Wednesday that he finds it very difficult to explain and argue over the value of the services that his company builds.
“If it were a matter of winning debates around this stuff, I think it would be extremely hard to get the point across - about the value of the internet,” he said. “But one of the good things about the internet is that you can just build something, and people will choose to use it or not, and so that’s how we win debates.”
Facebook has 600 million users around the world.