Google's director of public policy quits at critical time

Alan Davidson is leaving the company later this month

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management, Google

Alan Davidson

Google Director of Public Policy Alan Davidson (L) refers to a chart showing how users must opt-in to share location data, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy" on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 10, 2011.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Google has lost the man who has led its government relations efforts in the Americas for more than six years, at a time when the company's operations face intense scrutiny from legislators and regulators.

Alan Davidson, who opened Google's Washington, D.C., office in 2005 and has since then grown and steered the company's public policy team, has resigned.

"Alan has done an extraordinary job building the team in D.C., and working on the important policy issues facing the Internet and Google. We're grateful for everything he's done and wish him the best," Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said in a statement.

As Google has become one of the world's most influential companies, with a dominant position in the Internet search and advertising market and a mighty financial position, it has drawn increasing attention from governments, particularly in the U.S.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress, as well as state attorneys general and state legislatures, have all stepped up their oversight of Google business practices, including its acquisitions, in recent years.

Common concerns regarding Google include potential antitrust, copyright and online privacy violations, issues that Davidson's team is in charge of addressing, so that the company's positions are understood and -- ideally for Google -- supported by government officials.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Google will feel from the loss of such a key figure in its public policy strategy and execution.

In a memo Davidson sent to the staff, he acknowledged that the public policy issues Google faces are quite complex. "When I started at Google none of us really knew how the Internet, and this company, would grow and change. The mobile, cloud, and social technologies just taking hold then are now full-on revolutions today," reads the memo, which Google emailed to IDG News Service.

Later this month, Davidson will take a "sabbatical" to ponder what he might do next. "I am intensely proud of the team we have built throughout the Americas, and the work we have done," he wrote.

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