Google just promoted its top lawyer to run global affairs

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Kent Walker speaks at a Grow with Google launch event in Cleveland.

As big tech companies face increased scrutiny at home and abroad, Google’s general counsel just got a new, bigger role.

The company has promoted senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker to senior vice president of global affairs to oversee its policy, legal, trust and safety, and corporate philanthropy teams.

The company announced the news to employees on Monday.

Walker will publicly represent the company on a range of broader issues like the future of work, artificial intelligence, and the role of tech companies in society.

In the last year, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all been summoned to Capital Hill to discuss issues like data privacy and bias. Meanwhile, the European Union just slapped Google with a record-breaking $5 billion fine for competition abuses related to its Android phone software.

Internally, Walker has already been involved in many of the activities that his new role entails. He weighed in on the crafting the ethical principles for artificial intelligence that Google published in June, following months of controversy about a Google’s partnership with the Pentagon to use AI to analyze drone footage, and revently gave a speech advocating for global surveillance law reform.

In this more public-facing position, his role will be similar to how former CEO Eric Schmidt often represented Google’s interests to governments, before he stepped down from his executive chairman role last December. It’s also similar to the role Brad Smith plays for Microsoft.

Walker will now lead a team that includes Karan Bhatia, Google’s head of policy, Jacquelline Fuller, who runs its philanthropy arm, and Kristie Canagallo, who recently joined as Google’s head of trust and safety. Canagallo served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Bush and Obama, and was Obama’s deputy chief of staff from 2014 to 2017.

Walker’s previous role as general counsel managing Google’s legal team has not yet been filled.

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