Google’s influence machine extends beyond its courtship of politicians and government officials. A new analysis by Campaign for Accountability shows academics and experts funded by Google have played a major role at academic and government conferences, debating some of the company’s core issues, such as privacy and antitrust laws. Nearly all of them failed to disclose their financial ties to conference attendees. [Download this report as a PDF]
CfA compiled information on participants at three major policy conferences held this year about privacy and antitrust issues that ostensibly were organized to “bring together a diverse group of stakeholders.”[i] In fact, CfA found that many of the speakers at the conferences—arranged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), George Mason University (GMU), and Princeton University—had financial ties to Google.
- More than half of the speakers at the FTC’s PrivacyCon (22 of 41) were funded by Google, either directly through grants or indirectly through their institutions.
- More than half of the research papers presented at PrivacyCon (11 of 19) had an author with financial ties to Google.[ii] Only one disclosed the Google funding.[iii]
- Four of five speakers at George Mason University’s panel on the global antitrust investigations of Google received funding from Google.[iv]
- Five of seven panelists at Princeton University’s broadband privacy workshop received support from Google.[v]
A review of the conferences found that the Google-funded academics are playing an outsized role in the debate over the US government’s policy on internet privacy, a rapidly evolving area and an existential issue for Google. They are also often at the epicenter of policy research on antitrust issues in the age of digital platforms, another issue in which Google has a major stake.