It found that in 2018, privacy was the top issue for both Google and Facebook, with 61% of Facebook's lobbying efforts mentioning it and Google being even more, with 64% of its efforts being about privacy.
Next to this, data security was high on Facebook's list of concerns with 43% of its submissions being on this subject. Google was more concerned with competition, focusing 47% of its submissions on this aspect.
Overall, privacy was mentioned in submissions costing US$73.5 million from the five big tech firms in 2018, with Facebook accounting for US$13.8 million.
Another preoccupation for Facebook was curbing data requests from the NSA, with 10% of the social media company's lobbying reports mentioning data surveillance. Facebook started lobbying about this issue in 2013, as did Microsoft; coincidentally, this is the year when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked explosive reports about NSA surveillance to a number of big newspapers in different countries.
Last year, Facebook mentioned "government surveillance" in lobbying reports that cost US$12.6 million while Microsoft (US$9.9 million) and Google (US$200,000) were next.
Facebook was also concerned about data breach legislation, mentioning the words in 19% of its lobbying efforts. It began lobbying for laws relating to breaches in 2011 when reports worth US$800,000 mentioned the subject. By 2018, that figure had risen to US$12.6 million.
The research found that Google was obsessed with competition law, with 47% of its submissions based around this. In 2018, reports from the five companies which cost US$68.6 million to produce mentioned competition and Google's share was US$28 million.
Apple was the lone company to lobby for preserving "technical barriers to trade," vpnMentor found. The company spent US$8.3 million in 2018 lobbying on this subject.
Ariel Hochstadt, co-founder of vpnMentor and a cyber security expert, said of the research: “A lot of people tend to think that the way things are at the moment is just a natural progression of the Internet and that there’s nothing to do about it.
"But our report shows that this is just not true. Big tech companies such as Facebook and Google spend millions to convince us and lawmakers that it’s ok for them to use and exploit our data, or that this is just an inevitable conclusion of our online activity."
Graphic: courtesy vpnMentor