When you’re crushing your competitors, it’s the government that can be your biggest threat. That’s why Google grew its lobbying spend 70% to $16.48 million in 2012 and Facebook’s fees soared 196% to $3.99 million as they tried to buy government influence. Not everyone’s so worried about Washington, though. Apple’s yearly lobbying spend decreased 13% to $2.26 million.
Google and Facebook’s expenditures may have helped them escape punitive legislation and court rulings this time. Facebook avoided a fine from the FTC, though it will have to endure privacy audits for 20 years. Meanwhile, many feel Google got off light when it wasn’t hit with anti-trust charges earlier this month.
Facebook boosted lobbying fees by 318% in Q4 2012, possibly in anticipation of its new Graph Search feature which makes personal data much more accessible.
Other stats from disclosure forms filed late Tuesday include that Microsoft’s spend increased 10.2% to $8.09 million in 2012, while. Amazon slowed spending in Q4 but was still up 12.6% to $2.5 million over the year.
John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project condemned the search and social titans, saying “Google and Facebook would have you believe that they are different from other corporations. They are not. They are following the corrupt corporate tradition in Washington: buying what you want.” On the other hand, you could say this lobbying spend is about education. Washington doesn’t necessarily understand the evolving tech space. Misinterpretations or paranoid conclusions could be catastrophic for these companies, so when they’re making billions, spending millions for some sway in the capital might be a bargain.
Here’s a rundown of exactly what Facebook and Google specifically spent their lobbying on.
- International regulation of software companies; restrictions on Internet access by foreign governments; protecting and advancing online freedom of expression.
- Federal policy on issues relevant to technology and Internet policy including privacy, security, protecting children and online safety; including the implementation of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act (S. 799); Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2011 (S. 1151); Do Not Track Online Act (S. 913); Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 (S. 1223); Video Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 6671); Administration’s process on Do Not Track / multi-stakeholder process.
- Education regarding Internet media information security policy and Internet privacy issues.
- Privacy legislation; freedom of expression on the Internet.
- Education regarding online advertising.
- Discussions regarding reform of the immigration system, including temporary high-tech worker visas and employment-based permanent residency
- Discussions regarding cyber security and data security.
Google did so much lobbying that I’ll just summarize the areas it spent money on:
- Regulation of online advertising, privacy and competition issues in online advertising
- Music licensing and treatment of “orphan” works
- Patent lawsuit reform
- Do Not Track
- Consumer energy information
- Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 and legislation to preserve, enhance, and increase access to an open, global Internet
- Immigration and Visa legislation that would make it easier to bring overseas talent to America
- Openness and competition issues in online services
- General issues related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education
- Online small business advertising issues
- Benefits of cloud computing and online advertising for small businesses
- International tax reform
- Open Internet access, government access to communications, spectrum allocation, broadband adoption and deployment, TV white spaces proceedings
- Freedom of expression and intellectual property in international trade agreements
- Issues with YouTube and Google Earth
- Free trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama