Revolving Door Hires at Google

September 7, 2016

It looks like Google has determined the best way to address its legal challenges in Europe is to infiltrate and influence its governments. The Guardian reports, “Google: New Concerns Raised About Political Influence by Senior ‘Revolving Door’ Jobs.” The personnel-based tactic has apparently worked so well in the U.S. that Google is applying it to the European arena. Writer Jamie Doward cites research by the the Google Transparency Project, a venture of the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), when she writes:

New concerns have been raised about the political influence of Google after research found at least 80 ‘revolving door’ moves in the past decade – instances where the online giant took on government employees and European governments employed Google staff. … The CfA has suggested that the moves are a result of Google seeking to boost its influence in Europe as the company seeks to head off antitrust action and moves to tighten up on online privacy.

The article gets into specifics on who was hired where and when; navigate to it for those details. In sum, Doward writes:

Overall, the research suggests that Google, now part of parent company Alphabet Inc, has hired at least 65 former government officials from within the European Union since 2005.

During the same period, 15 Google employees were appointed to government positions in Europe, gaining what the CfA claims are ‘valuable contacts at the heart of the decision-making process’.

Anne Weisemann, CfA executive director, points to Google’s success influencing the U.S. government as a driving factor in its EU choices. She notes Google spends more to lobby our federal government than any other company, and that Google execs grace the White House more than once a week, on average. Also, CfA points to more than 250 of these “revolving door” appointments Google has made in the U.S.

For its part, Google claims it is just hiring experts who can answer government officials’ many questions about the Internet, about their own business model, and the “opportunity for European businesses to grow online.” There’s no way that could give Google an unfair advantage, right?

The article concludes with a call to reevaluate how government officials view Google—it is now much more than a search engine, it is a major political actor. Caution is warranted as the company works its way into government-run programs like the UK’s National Health Service and school systems. Such choices, ones that can affect the public on a grand scale, should be fully informed. Listening to Google lobbyists, who excel at playing on politicians’ technical ignorance, does not count.

Cynthia Murrell, September 7, 2016
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