Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg meeting with the FTC

Facebook is looking to make more friends in Washington, as chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg heads to the nation’s capital this week for a meeting with FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen and other officials, according to a report on the online news site Politico.

Olhausen downplayed the visit, telling Politico that “it’s just kind of a general meet and greet.”  But the report caught the eye of privacy watchdog Jeff Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy, who notes that the FTC is currently reviewing a Facebook proposal to revise its policies regarding the use of members’ photos and other information in advertisements.

Facebook says it hasn’t changed the effect of its policy, but – after settling a recent class-action lawsuit over the so-called “sponsored stories” ads – the social networking company says it wants to revise the policy language to explain more clearly how it uses members’ information for such purposes as targeted advertising.

Privacy advocates say they’re worried, however, that the changes let Facebook assume that its members have consented to such uses for their information.  Chester and others have complained to the FTC that the proposed changes may violate a previous legal agreement between Facebook and the commission, which settled earlier privacy complaints.

“Facebook hasn’t yet been able to make the changes it planned, so it’s sending its #1 well-connected lobbyist,” Chester said in an email, referring to Sandberg, who is not officially a lobbyist but knows plenty of people in Washington from her tenure as chief of staff for former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

Sandberg’s boss, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in DC last month, meeting with Congressional leaders to talk immigration reform and other issues.

But Sandberg and Ohlhausen may have other things to talk about, as well.  The FTC commissioner told Politico that she enjoyed the Facebook executive’s recent best-selling book, “Lean In,” about women and the workplace.

(Sheryl Sandberg photo by Gary Reyes / Mercury News)

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (280 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.