How Cutting-Edge Technology & Science Are Powering The Future TPM Idealab

Facebook Adds Joe Lockhart To Its Arsenal

Vwvy54qie8bhm65h5ll5
Newscom

But since then he's built a thriving DC-based communications practice as founder and managing director of the Glover Park Group that has counted Microsoft among its clients.

He's leaving the Glover Park Group, and he'll be moving to Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto July 15. He'll report to Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy. Facebook hired Levine a year ago, who had served as chief of staff on the National Economic Council.

"Joe's arrival brings new skills and greater depth to our incredibly busy team. His experience building and running a press office at the White House gives him particular appreciation for the demands of a global 24-hour news cycle and the challenges of responding effectively to intense scrutiny," said Elliot Schrage, Facebook's current vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy in an e-mailed statement. "His experience launching and scaling a communications firm will help us as we seek to build our team and continue to offer great opportunities for growth and professional development."

Lockhart also got some valuable and relevant experience working with controversial Silicon Valley types. In 2000, he was hired by Oracle as head of its communications team after CEO Larry Ellison admitted that he'd hired private detectives to rifle through Microsoft's trash.

Facebook recently has had some embarrassing flubs of its own.

In May, it admitted that it had secretly hired a high-profile Washington D.C. public communications firm to plant negative stories related to privacy about Google's Social Circle product.

The problem was that reporters weren't buying it, and instead turned around and exposed the campaign. Dan Lyons of The Daily Beast was the reporter who broke the story about Google being the target of Facebook's "whisper campaign." He characterized the two former high-profile journalists involved in the incident as a couple of "Keystone Kops," blustering around Silicon Valley.

The two former journalists were Jim Goldman of CNBC and John Mercurio of The Hotline, who were working on the campaign for Burson-Marstellar.

In addition to that incident, Facebook keeps rolling out new features like its facial recognition technology without giving much notice to its users, seeding general confusion
and undermining trust in the platform.

One report claims that Facebook is losing users -- to a tune of six million in May alone in the United States, and 100,000 in the United Kingdom.

But Facebook disputes those numbers. And as a BBC report notes, usage of the social networking system is actually growing around the world both in terms of the number of people using it, and the time they spend on it.

In all, almost 700 million people use it -- most of them outside of the United States.

Facebook has been all about pushing the envelope in defining what privacy means in the digital era.

Lockhart's job will be to repair Facebook's image both on Capitol Hill, where it faces intense scrutiny as legislators consider new privacy legislation, and around the world.

The ongoing problem at Facebook is that new sharing features are constantly being rolled out and users are included on a default basis without being given sufficient opportunity to consider their implications, and whether they want to use those features or not.

Lockhart's job in doing damage control is going to be especially important as Facebook heads towards its initial public offering in 2012. It's expected to be valued at a staggering $100 billion.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted last month at the G8 meeting that he finds it impossible to communicate effectively about privacy issues.

"If it were a matter of winning debates around this stuff, I think it would be extremely hard to get the point across - about the value of the internet," he said. "But one of the good things about the internet is that you can just build something, and people will choose to use it or not, and so that's how we win debates."

Lockhart is the latest of a group of high-profile hires that Facebook has made.

Last month it hired Joel Kaplan, President Bush's former deputy chief of staff in the White House, and Myriah Jordan who worked for Bush in the chief of staff's office.