Report: Facebook Funds Privacy Nonprofits To Shape Policy

Nonprofit watchdogs have long been one of the strongest checks against Facebook’s potential data and privacy abuses. These groups monitor the company’s actions, report on them to the public and lobby politicians to shape the law. However, according to a troubling new report from Bloomberg Law, many of these same groups also accept donations from Facebook.

According to Jeffrey Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy, companies like Facebook and Google have “opposed federal privacy laws and worked to weaken existing safeguards.” (The Center for Digital Democracy does not accept donations from Google or Facebook.) Accepting funds from these “privacy-killing companies enable them to influence decisions by nonprofits, even subtly,” he continued.

For their part, many of these groups objected to the implication that they’re being swayed by Facebook, and said that they would be fine with or without the money. And while it’s true that the majority of donations come from well-intentioned businesses and individuals concerned with privacy issues, the bottom line is this: Facebook wouldn’t donate to these groups if it didn’t think it would help. Above all else, however, this news is simply disheartening. If we can’t trust the word of privacy advocates, who can we trust?

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