Google promotes top lawyer to lead global affairs

Google promotes top lawyer to lead global affairs
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Google has promoted its top lawyer, Kent Walker, to be senior vice president of global affairs.

Walker had previously served as the company’s general counsel and senior vice president. His new role will have a broadened focus on matters like the future of work, artificial intelligence, and tech companies' relationship with society, first by reported CNBC and confirmed by Google.

His successor to serve as general counsel has not been named.

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Walker will be more public-facing in his new role. He has already authored public blog posts, explaining Google’s stances and giving updates on various issues regarding the company.

Walker has also already been engaging in many of the duties his new job will entail, including helping craft the company’s ethical principles for artificial intelligence, which it released in response to the controversy over its contract to provide artificial intelligence services assisting the Pentagon’s drone use.

Walker’s new role will be similar to that of Microsoft President Brad Smith, who frequently speaks on and writes public posts about political and policy issues important to the company, according to CNBC. In recent months, Smith has weighed in on issues including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and his company's contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), after Microsoft employees urged the company to drop the contract.

Now, Walker is in charge of a team composed of Karan Bhatia, Google's head of policy; Jacquelline Fuller, chief of its philanthropy arm Google.org; and Kristie Canagello, Google's head of trust and safety.

In November, Walker testified alongside general counsels from Facebook and Twitter in a series of congressional hearings on how internet companies were manipulated by Russian trolls seeking to manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

Walker’s counterpart at Facebook, Colin Stretch, also transitioned out of his role as general counsel last week. However, unlike Walker, he will not remain at the company.

Top executives are set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee again this September. This time instead of the company's lawyers, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will attend. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been invited to testify but has not confirmed his attendance, as of last week.