No longer a hip and up-and-coming company, the internet giant Google has hired Washington lobbyists to protect its interests from Congressional regulation. No company wants to be regulated or burdened with costs, and Google is no different. It has hired lobbyists to make sure it can run its business on its own terms. While there is no stopping the internet from continuing to transform how we conduct our day to day lives, it will become even more important to make sure these companies are on our side.
According to a recent report by Politico the company raised $570,000 in the first six months of the year for its political action committee (PAC). Last year Google was the second leading donor to the Democratic National Committee, contributing over $190,000.
Now you might ask, what does such a mega company have to worry about? There is a large debate regarding regulating the internet, online censorship, and privacy on social networking sites. Many other countries have some sort of censorship when it comes to their internet access. For example, Google closed its services in China because the government forced the company to censor certain queries. In the U.S., there is controversy over Verizon or Apple following our every move, which it turned out they were doing just last year.
Google’s position on new legislation is clear. In a statement to the Senate’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Vice President of Google Nicole Wong said whenever Google makes changes to its system or creates new ones like Google Plus, that access, transparency, and trust, are the principles that guide the company. It does not want to hurt the people who use its service, and needs to be transparent in order to make sure users feel safe using it.
If Google were forced by the Federal Government to report what its users were using its services for, they feel this would be violating their trust. Google has every interest to make sure this doesn’t happen. While the company has spent over three and a half million in lobbying efforts, it is still cheaper to spend it on those lobbyists rather than following through on legislation requiring them to hire people to fill out repetitive forms regarding the latest topics hitting the internet.
The lobbying efforts by Google seem to be working. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the Internet Freedom Act which would stop “the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from proposing, promulgating, or issuing any regulations with regard to the internet or IP-enabled services.” Translation: The FCC cannot look at what you are doing online unless it is national security related. The only way the FCC would get this information is if Google provided it, which it does not want to do as it will cost them time and money.
At the same time, I’m assuming you do not want Google telling some government agency what you were searching for late one Saturday night.
However, as the internet becomes an increasing part of our lives, there will be more regulations that are needed to protect individuals' actions online. We are increasingly putting personal information at the hands of private companies that, if in the wrong hands, could do us harm. There are already laws that prosecute people for credit card fraud. But if we are willing to give major online companies like Facebook and Google our credit card information, it will become important to make sure they don’t use that information in ways we don’t want them to.
We are still in the early stages of regulating the internet, and the lobbying efforts of Google and other internet companies will continue to increase. Just like banks want to have a friendly face, you know there is someone behind the curtain making sure the money is coming in. It is the same for Google, which makes it just as important to watch what it is doing behind the scenes.
Photo Credit: BlubrNL