Google and the Obama Administration

Dear President Obama:

While I realize that the consuming public’s fascination with Google, along with the “in no way representing Google” CEO’s appearance on your pre-election video infomercial, in no way indicated Google bias, your latest appointment has me a bit concerned.

It appears Eric Schmidt’s active stumping and video appearance is paying off for Google as I predicted. Unfortunately, the Google White House isn’t representing the people. It’s representing Google. Appointing a Google employee as your “director of citizen participation” only perpetuates the apparent lack of understanding your administration has for the Web ecosystem.

Judging by my image search, it appears you’ve had the opportunity to meet with Katie Jacobs Stanton prior to her career upgrade. I’m sure she’s qualified for the position and a fine human being. This letter isn’t at all intended to slight Ms. Jacobs Stanton.

My point is actually quite simple: your administration appears to favor Google, and that’s just not fair. There are plenty of incredibly smart people in the interactive universe.

Many of those intelligent connected people were busy at work and couldn’t afford to take the time to go campaigning for you. They were struggling with trying to make money while being inventive. They were paying their bills, while others were sitting out the process waiting for free money, bailouts, and other ways you might “spread the wealth around.”

Google is a wonderful company, but it doesn’t represent the people, it represents itself. Google recently offered its employees a stock option bailout to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, thereby allowing shareholders to take the financial hit. Of course, Google didn’t invent the technology it uses to make money. They “borrowed” it from someone else. That someone else had a problem with said “borrowing” and initiated litigation.

Employment at Google isn’t indicative of the rest of the world. In fact, it seems more like a fantasy universe of free gourmet food and handy services, like dry cleaning and dedicated fun time. Indeed, many of us who’ve been around the interactive block a few times remember when a lot of companies offered dedicated fun time and it didn’t turn out well.

I thought we were moving past paying back campaign favors with key positions. I thought we were changing the world.

Transparency doesn’t mean appointing your supporters so they can continue building their brand by plugging in familiar connectivity. Tools like Google-owned and advertising-supported YouTube and Google Moderator are already being tossed around as cornerstones of your administration’s communication strategy.

Just because the committee to elect you effectively exploited the consuming public’s fascination with Google doesn’t mean Google should be the alpha and omega of your talent search.

I encourage you to look beyond the monolithic information access society we’re building and do the right thing when it comes to listening to the people. Public servants genuinely interested in change shouldn’t hold financial interests in the companies they choose to utilize as communication platforms. I believe we used to call that a conflict of interest.

Plenty of tools can be easily and cheaply acquired that won’t feed one company’s financial agenda. You’re perhaps the most popular president of all time. You don’t need Google equity to hear the messages sent by the people.

Now that you have the office, you can set your own standards for communication and people will adopt the tools. The media will dispense the information as it always has, with checks, balances and free hype for all.

Very truly yours,

Kevin M. Ryan

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