Feb 20, 2019

Scoop: Google exec reorganizes policy shop as global threats loom

Photo: Carsten Koall/Getty Images

Google’s top policy executive is reorganizing the company's worldwide lobbying operation, according to an internal email obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The long-planned shake-up comes as the search giant faces newly hostile regulators around the world.

What they’re saying: “Our increased responsibilities, the heightened public focus on tech and the growth of our business are placing greater demands on Google than ever before, and those demands will only increase,” said Karan Bhatia, who leads public policy around the world, in his email.

  • “This reorganization restructures our function to better meet those demands and to successfully engage with governments and other stakeholders.”

Details:

  • The shift includes adding employees to a central group focused on issues that transcend geography or products, like privacy and antitrust, said a source with direct knowledge of Google’s plans. Other teams will focus on region-by-region concerns, issues specific to individual products and anticipating future challenges.
  • The company will focus more resources on emerging markets, said the person with knowledge of its plans.
  • Bhatia has also stocked his leadership ranks from inside and outside the company. Two current Google employees, Leslie Miller and Wilson White, will lead the core team focused on major issues and the team advising the firm's biggest products, respectively. New hire and former ambassador Ted Osius will run its work in Asia, and executive Pablo Chavez will continue to focus on cloud computing issues.

The unit, formerly known as "Public Policy," will become "Government Affairs and Public Policy."

  • Bhatia told employees the new name reflects that "that, while we will always emphasize strong thought leadership on public policy issues, we are increasingly focused on the government stakeholders critical to Google’s operations and regulating the next generations of technology."

Yes, but: The company has yet to hire someone to lead its Washington office — a key role as a divided Congress weighs a national privacy law.

Flashback: The company appointed GE veteran Bhatia to lead its global policy apparatus last summer. In November, former Rep. Susan Molinari, head of its DC office, said she was stepping away from that role.

  • Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Bhatia was deciding whether he would make major changes to its federal lobbying operation.

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