Since the first month of the Obama administration in 2009 until October, 2015, staff from Google and its related companies met with government representatives at least 427 times.
One Google employee, Johanna Shelton – who heads public policy for Google, notched 128 visits to the White House – more than twice as often as Microsoft’s Fred Humphries or Comcast’s David Cohen.
According to numbers calculated by the Campaign for Accountability and the Intercept, 169 Google employees met with 182 government officials in the White House during that period.
Google has maintained that topics discussed during those meetings covered patent reform, STEM education, self-driving cars, internet censorship, smart contact lenses, and cyber security.
However, CfA data reveal a revolving door between Google and the government that raises other issues and concerns.
“The “revolving door” data… reveals 55 cases of individuals moving from positions at Google into the federal government , and 197 individuals moving from positions inside the government to jobs at Google.”
No other public company comes close to this level of intimacy with the government, according to The Intercept.
The Campaign for Accountability’s Executive Director, Anne Weismann, said, “Google has long been a strong advocate of transparency in government, business, and even user’s private lives. It has not, however, been transparent about its own dealing with the government. These data sets show how Google has enjoyed unparalleled access to the Obama Administration at a time when the company’s influence on government, public policies, and our lives is incomparable to any corporation in history.”
According to The Intercept, Google has provided the administration unique leverage and assistance by expanding internet access in Cuba; bringing Google Fiber into public housing; using Google resources to monitor droughts; and even captured 360-degree views of White House interiors.
White House officials have gone to Silicon Valley for a wide range of assistance, including: help in stopping terrorists recruiting using social media, securing the internet of things, thwarting cyberattacks, modernizing the Defense Department and updating government technologies – including rescuing the HealthCare.gov website launch.
Weismann cautioned, “Americans know surprisingly little about what Google wants and gets from our government.”
AT&T chief lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, would back her warning. Recently, President Obama announced support for the Federal Communications Commission plan to open up the market for cable set-top boxes, which is perceived as a big win for Google and a set-back for cable providers.
The CfA announced it will initiate a project to enable the public to monitor Google’s influence on government and public policies.
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