Google and Obama’s team: close links, conflict of interests?

A very interesting analysis from the French JDNet, 7 April 2009 of the link between Obama’s team and Google.
It’s no secret that Obama used the web extensively to promote his campaign and that donations of 10 dollars only succeeded in gathering millions (- think of what it says also for scammers!!!).
Here are the links highlighted by the journalist:

1) Google received 7,5 millions from Obama’s team to advertise their campaign. In comparison, Yahoo received 1,5 million and Facebook 643,000 dollars.

2) Officially neutral, Google’s director Eric Schmidt never hid during the campaign that he favoured Obama’s candidacy; Google’s employees gave 100,000 dollas; only half the amount for Hillary Clinton.
So far not too problematic, but Eric Schmidt has been named as a potential candidate for one of the US administration key job in technology…

3) Katie Jacobs Stantion, product manager at Google, was appointed as the director for citizens participation which entails notably to develop the tools for American citizens to express themselves and be linked with the White House…

4) Vivek Kundra, the first DSI, was closely involved with YouTube… and helped in 2008 to city employees to move to Google Apps away from Microsoft Office

5) Obama’s team reiterated to be attache to Netneutrality, with Google being one of the lobbyists for it

6) YOuTube is used to transmit the saturday’s speech; and not Yahoo…

7) Google launched GOogleHealth where people can stock their personal health information and share it with others of their choice. Apart from the fact that nothing stops Google to legally sell this information (!!!), the White House just put 19,2 millions in promoting e-prescription systems for doctors, which means in the long run that Google Health could see its use and revenue increase dramatically.

Conclusion: none of the above are necessarily troublesome. Apart from point 7, I think each of the decisions can be justified in themselves. Point 7 troubles me because I wonder to which extent the lobbying has been such that the decision taken may be bias and not a good policy decision for the country.

Finally, the article explains that Christine Varney was appointed to the anti-trust division and she does not like Google. A safe net for the White House? Let’s face it: Google products are good, very good. I don’t use all of them because I have reserves/concerns about privacy. But I can’t deny the products are excellent and so easy to use. Contrary to Microsoft, I think they came in the market by their own efforts (I seriously believe Microsoft had a monopoly and that it acts like it, especially with Vista – well it backfired at the end, because Vista ‘pissed people off’) and are there because they develop good products at the right time. Only the future will tell us if the ties are too close. Meanwhile, the White House has to be careful because this is the type of story that can damage them more than anything.

L’influence de Google sur Barack Obama” (JDN, 7 April 2009)

About Audrey Guinchard

Senior Lecturer @ University of Essex (UK)
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