During a year where consumer and data privacy frequently took center stage in the nation’s capitol, the biggest technology companies ramped up lobbying efforts, with some spending record amounts in 2018.
According to documents filed this week, Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft collectively spent about $64 million on lobbying efforts last year – with leaders from the majority of those companies appearing before lawmakers to answer questions and defend their practices.
Meanwhile, ongoing privacy and antitrust concerns continue to put the sector in the spotlight – both in the U.S. and around the world.
Search giant Google spent the highest amount – at more than $21 million – more than it spent in any other year. During the fourth quarter, the company shelled out nearly $5 million.
Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made his first appearance on Capitol Hill in December, after executives from the company drew scrutiny for declining to make an appearance at a hearing months earlier. The company made headlines for a string of controversies last year, including a provocative prototype for a censored version of its search engine it is developing for the Chinese market, a glitch on its Google Plus platform that potentially exposed 52 million users and concerns its practices are anticompetitive.
Google declined to comment beyond the numbers outlined in the disclosure.
E-commerce giant Amazon spent $14 million to influence policy in 2018.
The company, which has been a frequent target of President Trump, has been floated as a potential candidate for antitrust action.
There have also been numerous concerns over what data its devices – like Alexa – record, collect and potentially mistakenly disseminate.
Amazon did not return FOX Business' request for comment.
Social media platform Facebook also set a company record for lobbying expenses in 2018, spending a total of nearly $13 million.
Facebook helped spark greater scrutiny of the tech sector after Russian actors used its platform in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Capitol Hill last year, facing questions about potential bias on the social media platform, as well as data privacy and vulnerabilities.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also testified before lawmakers, detailing ways the company was safeguarding its platform ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Facebook did not return FOX Business’ request for comment.
While Microsoft largely stayed out of the spotlight in 2018 – it still spent a hefty amount to advocate for itself. The Redmond, Washington-based company shelled out $9.5 million on lobbying efforts.
Microsoft did not return FOX Business' request for comment.
Tech darling Apple actually spent less on lobbying efforts in 2018 when compared with 2017, at more than $6 million – down from more than $7 million from the year prior.
Apple CEO Tim Cook was vocal about the need for tech companies to safeguard user data and privacy – calling on business leaders in the sector to enhance consumer protections.
Cook warned people that their data is being “weaponized” against them with “military efficiency,” during a speech in October.
Cook went on to say that opposing privacy regulation “isn’t just wrong, it is destructive.”
Apple declined to comment.
Social media platform Twitter spent the least of the big technology names – at just more than $1 million. CEO Jack Dorsey appeared before Congress with Facebook’s Sandberg in September, admitting that there are a number of areas where the company can improve its user experience.
Twitter declined to comment on its lobbying efforts.