Former senior Barack Obama advisor Caroline Atkinson has been hired by Google to lead its public policy team, the New York Times reports. Atkinson stepped down from her position as White House Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics in December, and will join Google in March to guide the company through various legal challenges, including allegations from the European Commission that it unfairly blocks competition.
Atkinson began her career as a journalist, writing for the Washington Post, The Economist, and the Times of London, before becoming a senior advisor with the International Monetary Fund. She was hired by the administration in 2011, and represented the President at meetings of international groups such as the G20. She also previously worked for the National Security Council, the Treasury Department, and consulting firm Stonebridge International.
“Caroline’s an internationally respected diplomat and adviser, and we’re delighted to have such a thoughtful leader heading our global public policy team,” Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, said in a statement, as reported in the Times.
Atkinson will be based in Washington, and takes over Google’s public policy team from Rachel Whetstone, who joined Uber in May. Uber also hired former Obama advisor David Plouffe in 2014, and former Obama press secretary Jay Carney was hired to oversee public policy and public relations for Amazon around the same time. With lawmakers around the world seeking new or adapted regulations for everything from net neutrality to encryption “piercing,” other tech firms will likely add policy advisors this year.
The European antitrust investigation launched in April is just one of the controversies Atkinson will attempt to pilot the company through. How far the “right to be forgotten” extends, how to handle millions of takedown requests each day, how to satisfy law enforcement requests for access to personal information while protecting user privacy, and even the extent of its support for open source projects all fall public policy issues Google is dealing with now and for the foreseeable future.