New Report Reveals Google’s Business Dealings, America’s Foreign Policy Entangled in Cuba and North Korea
Google Appears to Have Misled the Obama Administration on its Application to Travel to Cuba in 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, released a new report, Google’s Diplomatic Edge, documenting how Google selfishly – and perhaps misleadingly – involved itself in some of America’s thorniest foreign policy engagements for the apparent purpose of opening new markets for its products.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Google claims to be travelling to isolated locations such as Cuba and North Korea for purely philanthropic reasons – to promote the Internet as a tool for positive social change. Unsurprisingly, Google’s outreach is nothing more than a Trojan Horse to reach new customers. Public officials should be aware that when Google inserts itself into America’s foreign policy, it’s probably to benefit Google’s bottom line, not the public interest.”
CfA’s report details how Google officials traveled to Cuba and North Korea to try to open the markets for its products under the auspices of charitable endeavors. For example, in 2014, Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Jared Cohen, the Director of Google’s in-house think tank, Jigsaw, applied to travel to Cuba. Google wrote on its application to the U.S Treasury Department that the executives wanted to study Cuba’s “autocratic and ghastly approach to free speech, and to map out a way to dismantle it.”
Less than two months after their return, however, Google announced that its web browser, Chrome, would be available in Cuba for the first time. A few months later, Google released its Google Play app store and Google Analytics software in Cuba. In December 2014, six months after the trip, the Obama administration restored full diplomatic relations with Cuba and eased restrictions on U.S. companies’ ability to provide internet services on the island.
The frenzy of deal-making has continued ever since. In December 2016, in the closing days of the Obama administration, Schmidt was back in Havana, signing a deal to place servers on the island to ensure faster delivery of Google content. In 2018, Google signed four memoranda of understanding with Cuba, “to promote Cuban content.” And just this week, Google signed a “peering agreement” with Cuba to connect their networks through a new, physical link.
Google has used the same tactic in other global hotspots. In January 2013, Schmidt travelled to North Korea with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson. About two weeks after the trip, Google Earth made satellite imagery of North Korea available for the first time. By April 2018, Google was ranked as the preferred search engine by the few internet users in North Korea, far surpassing Chinese search engine Baidu. Google is also reportedly one of the few online databases available in North Korea.
To achieve many of these goals, Google relied on its particularly close relationship with the Obama administration. But the company also enjoys high-level access to the Trump administration. Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, met in the White House with President Donald Trump on March 27, 2019, just a day before Google announced its internet peering deal with Cuba.
Mr. Stevens continued, “American foreign policy should be guided by what’s best for the public, not what’s best for Google. If Google executives are misleading U.S. government officials regarding their travel to controversial countries, they should be held accountable.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.