As we all know, the internet continually disrupts society on a global scale. It has become a platform for the international exchange of ideas and, more importantly, brought hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. But with this disruptive platform comes challenges of safety and security, access to information, and censorship within multiple legal systems. How can we appropriately apply the legal standards and expectations from every country in the world to the internet which is, by nature, an international platform?
In this republished episode of In-House Legal, Randy Milch interviews Google Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker about his path to general counsel of Google and the current legal challenges the multinational technology company faces. Walker examines internet disruption and censorship and talks about how Google approaches the legal balance between personal privacy and the government’s need for access to information.
Walker begins by talking about his path through the U.S. Attorney’s office, AirTouch Communications, Netscape (which became AOL), eBay, and then ending up in his current position at Google and how different sources of training gave him the experience to be a successful general counsel. Through his history in tech companies, he has interacted with the evolution of information law in privacy and defamation, jurisdictional questions, intellectual property definitions, the limits on patents and copyright, and new questions about antitrust in a digital economy.
Milch and Walker then transition into a discussion on threats arising to the internet as it is today. As Google is intimately involved in the balance between necessary encryption and government access to information, Walker discusses how his legal department approaches this fine line. Discussion inevitably turns to censorship and the “right to be forgotten,” a misnomer actually meaning the right to be delisted from the search engines. They talk about self-censorship within tech companies like Facebook and Twitter, collaboration in Silicon Valley after the Snowden Revelations, and the international goal of access to information and freedom of expression.
As general counsel and senior vice president for legal, policy, trust, and safety at Google, Kent Walker is responsible for managing Google’s global legal team and advising the company’s board and management on legal issues and corporate governance matters. Before joining Google, Walker held senior legal positions at a number of leading technology companies. Earlier in his career, Walker was an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the United States Department of Justice, where he specialized in the prosecution of technology crimes and advised the Attorney General on management and technology issues.
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