Facebook has denied secretly supporting a controversial surveillance bill that would give it legal immunity for violating privacy laws as long as the social network agrees to share the information with the government.
Fight for the Future, a civil liberties group that has been heavily involved in opposition to the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), claimed Facebook lobbyists have been in Washington ahead of a Senate vote on the bill.
CISA has been heavily criticised by privacy advocates, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, while Facebook has previously been praised for standing against it. In response to the claims from Fight for the Future, a Facebook spokesperson told IBTimes UK: "We have not advocated publicly or privately for CISA." The firm's official stance on the bill was not disclosed.
'The most hated tech company in history'
Facebook was originally accused of secret lobbying by Fight for the Future's co-founder Tiffiniy Cheng, who claimed in a recent blogpost that "sources on the Hill" had informed the group Facebook lobbyists are welcoming CISA behind closed doors.
"At a time when CISA is being rejected by the public, security experts, and even the tech industry it's supposed to protect, it was suspicious that Congress is barrelling forward with this bill at breakneck speed," Cheng said. "Now, it seems we have part of the answer. Facebook's quiet lobbying is an example of why Facebook will go down as the most hated tech company in history. If Facebook wants to reclaim their credibility on user privacy, they need to take a stand against CISA."
As a result of this information, the group launched a petition demanding Facebook comes clean about its stance on CISA. "Most tech companies are against [CISA] for privacy reasons, but apparently Facebook is working behind the scenes to make sure it passes," the petition states. "It didn't make any sense. The bill is toxic. The public hates it and tons of tech companies are against it, but Congress keeps trying to ram it through.
"Now that we know that Facebook lobbyists are working behind the scenes to get it passed, it makes more sense why Congress keeps coming back to it. Facebook wants CISA because they want immunity from privacy lawsuits, but if companies like Apple, Twitter, and Reddit can do the right thing by their users and oppose CISA, Facebook can to."
Facebook's Senate connection
Facebook had previously been lauded by privacy advocates due to the firm's association with the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which has previously spoken out against CISA. However, Fight for the Future notes Facebook has pioneered privacy-invasive experiments in the past, while also supporting previous versions of the cybersecurity info-sharing bills.
Links have also been made between Facebook's chief Senate lobbyist, Myriah Jordan, and Senator Richard Burr. Jordan worked for Burr, a CISA sponsor, before moving to Facebook.
Fight for the Future stated: "These 'revolving door' connections give companies more power and influence than ordinary people could ever have, and it's part of the reason why companies like Facebook think they can get whatever they want out of Washington."