Waiting for Google

Google has revolutionized the world of information sharing, but it can’t seem to follow up on a basic commitment it made to its shareholders five months ago.

At Google’s May 2014 shareholder meeting, we asked Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt how he would respond to shareholder calls for greater political spending transparency. Despite its “Don’t Be Evil” motto, Google funds major dark money groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ranks among the worst of the major tech companies in political spending transparency. The amount of information it collects about users while withholding information about its own practices creates a dangerous imbalance of power.

“Let me summarize your request,” Schmidt said at the May meeting. “We need to be more transparent. And we’ve heard that from a number of other shareholders … Let us come back with some ideas.”

Google hadn’t responded to any of our more than half a dozen phone calls and emails, so last week we attended a talk by Eric Schmidt to ask him once again.

“At your shareholder meeting this year, you said that you would respond to shareholder calls for more transparency in political spending,” I said to Schmidt during the Q&A.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Are you still working on that?” I said.

“I don’t know the status of that, but we certainly promised. So maybe we can follow up on that one.”

Once again, we’re reaching out to Google but getting no follow-up. Google can clearly do better. It certainly promised.

See the full exchange in this video, starting at 45:20.

Sam Jewler is the communications and research officer for Public Citizen’s Chamber Watch program.