Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy
© Greg Nash

Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg met with multiple senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday as lawmakers in both chambers seek to hammer out the nation's first comprehensive online privacy law. 

Sandberg's appearance on the Hill, first reported by Bloomberg News, comes as Facebook circles a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the social media giant's handling of user data, which could result a fine of up to $5 billion against Facebook and a requirement it submit to greater privacy oversight.  

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A spokesman for Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Olympic athletes in response to abuse scandals Overnight Defense: Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sales | Two US troops killed in Afghanistan | Senators tee up nominations, budget deal ahead of recess Senate fails to override Trump veto on Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Kansas) confirmed that Moran is sitting down with Sandberg this afternoon but declined to share further details before the meeting, while a spokeswoman for Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.) said he is planning to bring up social media regulation at his own meeting with Sandberg.  

Warner last year released a white paper with 20 proposals to rein in Big Tech. 

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWill Congress act to stop robocalls? Hillicon Valley: Trump reportedly weighing executive action on alleged tech bias | WH to convene summit on online extremism | Federal agencies banned from buying Huawei equipment | Lawmakers jump start privacy talks The Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? MORE (R-Miss.) told Bloomberg News that he discussed federal privacy legislation during his meeting with Sandberg earlier in the day.

A Facebook spokesperson said Sandberg is in Washington, D.C. to discuss regulations with policymakers, as well as meet with civil rights groups. The spokesperson specified that the trip does not pertain to Facebook's upcoming settlement with the FTC.  

Moran and Wicker are members of the bipartisan Senate working group seeking to draft privacy legislation that would likely affect the business model of social media companies like Facebook, which rely on collecting user data to sell advertisements. 

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel Schatz'Medicare for All' complicates Democrats' pitch to retake Senate Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid Booker, Durbin and Leahy introduce bill to ban death penalty MORE (D-Hawaii), another member of the working group, is not scheduled to meet with Sandberg, his spokesman said.

The offices of the group's other members, including top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee Maria Cantwell (Wash.) and member of the committee John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' Lawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects MORE (R-S.D.), did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

The Senate Commerce Committee also oversees the FTC, which is supposed to hand down its Facebook decision as soon as this week. 

Facebook last month said it has set aside up to $5 billion settle the FTC privacy investigation, which was launched last year after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a right-wing political consulting agency, obtained data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge. 

Several media outlets have reported that a settlement could also involve a requirement that Facebook establish privacy compliance officials.