Google Aims for Better Academic Ties on Public Policy Issues

Academic institutions and researchers involved in higher learning often aim to influence public policy on privacy, competition, and other issues affecting online advertising. Recognizing their impact on the debate around government regulation, Google’s public policy team is going straight to the source. The company is in the market for an Academic Relations Manager to join its public policy group.

The newly-created role calls for someone to lead initiatives related to what Google calls “key issue areas” of advertising, competition, privacy, intellectual property, and telecommunications policy. The future Academic Relations Manager will serve as the company’s main liaison to college faculty and researchers as well as economists, says the job description on Google’s corporate Web site.

“We value the input and feedback we receive from academics on issues like privacy and broadband policy, and this position will serve as a point person to gather that input and expand Google’s relationships with professors,” Google’s Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager Mistique Cano told ClickZ News.

While firms like Microsoft also have academic relations staff, they often serve to introduce new technologies to students and faculty. However, the tasks Google’s recruit will be charged with fit squarely in the public policy realm. Among them is promoting and building support for the company’s public policy positions.

The new hire “will be responsible for commissioning research papers and studies on public policy topics, organizing academic conferences, conducting outreach to academics regarding Google’s public policy positions, and lead[ing] the development of our academic relations program,” according to Google.

Google has attracted critics from academic circles when it comes to issues like online privacy, ad targeting, and its digital book publishing initiative, Google Books. Practices key to its online ad business, for example, came under fire recently in a report written by professors from University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley. The “Americans Reject Tailored Advertising” report found that 73 percent of study participants did not approve of being served customized ads based on previous online behavior.

Google, Yahoo, and several online ad networks enable behavioral ad targeting. However, the practice has been subject to increased government pressure, and as a result has been a focus of Google’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

A co-author of the Americans Reject Tailored Advertising report, Chris Jay Hoofnagle of the School of Law, Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, has also served as a senior counsel and director for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC opposed Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick; the acquisition has been key to Google’s online advertising and data capabilities.

Google has also faced adversity from educational entities in relation to its Google Books project. In July, the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Association of Research Libraries asked the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure fair pricing for institutional subscriptions in conjunction with Google’s program.

Google has around 20 people who work on public policy and public affairs issues in its Washington, D.C. office. The new position will be based in Mountain View, CA, where the firm is based.

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