Google’s Privacy Chief Is Out And Will Not Be Replaced

Google has restructured its privacy and legal compliance teams.

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Google’s chief privacy officer, Keith Enright, will depart the tech giant after 13 years, with no plans yet to replace him, as the company restructures its teams in charge of privacy and legal compliance.

Staff were informed of Enright’s departure in mid-May, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter. One told Forbes the news came as a shock to employees, as Enright was well-liked and respected, having steered Google’s privacy team through years in which its data handling practices were held under a microscope by lawmakers, regulators and civil courts.

Matthew Bye, Google’s head of competition law, will be leaving as well, after 15 years with the company and during a critical moment for Google when it comes to antitrust. Last month, the company wrapped up closing arguments in a landmark competition trial brought on by the Department of Justice, over Google’s contracts with device manufacturers that push users to Google search. Bye did not respond to a request for comment.

Google spokesperson Jenn Crider confirmed that Enright and Bye will leave their posts later this year will not be replaced.

“We regularly evolve our legal, regulatory and compliance work as we launch and run innovative services that comply with a growing number of intersecting obligations and expectations. Our latest changes will increase the number of people working on regulatory compliance across the company,” Crider said in a statement. “We’ll continue to establish and maintain advanced privacy and data protection controls for our services, with input from our dedicated legal and product privacy teams, as well as hundreds of people across the company.”

Enright, a former privacy chief at Macy’s, didn’t respond to a request for comment. He will remain with the company until September, Google said.

After publication of this article, Enright confirmed his departure on LinkedIn. “This will be an uncharacteristically personal post from a guy who predictably tends to keep things private,” he wrote. “After over 13 years at Google, I’m ready for a change, and will be moving on this fall, taking all that I’ve learned and trying something new.”

Enright took the the chief privacy officer job in 2018, previously serving in a privacy counsel role. In his capacity as privacy chief, Enright represented the company in front of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and several data commissions around the world.

In 2018, he testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, alongside privacy chiefs from Amazon and Apple, on consumer data policies — as lawmakers in Washington reckoned with the power and influence big tech companies possess when it comes to the personal information of Americans. “We acknowledge that we have made mistakes in the past, from which we have learned, and improved our robust privacy program,” he said in his testimony at the time.

Google has been under an intense privacy spotlight in recent years, as user data is crucial to the company’s more than $307 billion in annual revenue.

In late December, it settled a $5 billion lawsuit in which it was accused of continuing to track customers’ browsing behavior in Chrome when users were in incognito mode. Details of the settled amount were not disclosed, though the company has promised to delete billions of records. Earlier this week, 404 Media reported on the leak of an internal database of thousands of privacy incidents, including one from 2016 in which Google was accidentally collecting license plate numbers with its Street View technology.

Enright’s exit is part of a broader restructuring of Google’s policy and privacy teams. The company told Forbes the reorganization is meant to shift privacy policy work to individual product and engineering teams, instead of one office. Late last month, Google laid off several members of its legal investigations team, responsible for handling requests for user data made by law enforcement, the courts and the public. That includes responding to requests involving victims of child sexual abuse and kidnappings, as well as other issues of legal compliance.

“Executives have prioritized delivering short-term profits to shareholders over the people who depend on the company’s products and those whose work ensures these products function,” Stephen McMurtry, a Google employee and executive board member of the Alphabet Workers Union, said at the time.

Like other tech giants, Google has undergone sizable layoffs over the last year and a half. The company’s full time workforce stood at more than 180,000 at the end of the first quarter, a more than 5% drop from a year ago.

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