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Posted at 08:22 PM ET, 11/07/2011

Google’s head of Washington policy, lobbying leaving

(Joerg Sarbach/dapd - AP)
Alan Davidson, the head of Google’s Washington policy and lobbying operations, is leaving his position.

The announcement, made in an internal memo to colleagues, comes at a time when federal lawmakers and regulators have focused on the search giant for potential antitrust and privacy violations.

Davidson wrote in his e-mail to employees that he will take a “sabbatical” later in the month to “explore other opportunities.”

He said in an e-mail exchange: “I’m very excited,” but referred this reporter to spokespeople at the firm for further comment.

In 2005 Davidson became Google’s first employee in D.C., an engineer and attorney known to champion Internet policy issues such as net neutrality and anti-censorship of the Web.

Since then, the company has grown and moved into a large operation of dozens of employees in their downtown space. Google spent $2.3 million on lobbying expenses in the third quarter of the year, double its expenditures from the same quarter of 2010.

“When I started at Google none of us really knew how the Internet, and this company, would grow and change,” Davidson wrote to colleagues and tech policy partners outside the company. “The mobile, cloud, and social technologies just taking hold then are now full-on revolutions today.”

More recently, Davidson has had to contend with investigations of the company’s privacy practices by the Federal Trade Commission. The agency settled with the company over complaints about its social network, Google Buzz, which exposed contact lists of e-mail users. The company also implemented privacy training after investigations into its scooping of Wi-Fi data around the world from its Street View mapping cars.

Google’s purchase of the ITA travel site was approved by antitrust regulators, and the company’s bid for Motorola Mobility is currently being reviewed. But lawmakers have grilled the company, including its chairman, Eric Schmidt, over Google’s placement of advertisements, which competitors say unfairly puts them at a disadvantage.

And Davidson has pushed for U.S. support of Google’s operations in China, where it temporarily left last year in protest of censorship by the local government.

Here is Davidsom’s memo:

From: Alan Davidson 

Date: Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Subject: Time for a new challenge

In 2005, I joined Google in Washington to build a first-rate Internet policy group. It’s been a remarkable experience – and a very exciting and intense time -- but I’m ready for a new challenge.

After six and half years, I’ve decided it’s the right moment for me to leave my current role at the company. Starting later this month, I will betaking a sabbatical to explore other opportunities.

When I started at Google none of us really knew how the Internet, and this company, would grow and change. The mobile, cloud, and social technologies just taking hold then are now full-on revolutions today.

At Google, we’ve grown from one person in shared rental space (me!) toa large regional team with a flagship office in DC. I am intensely proud of the team we have built throughout the Americas, and the work we have done.When we started the office, I knew that we couldn’t affect the major policy debates of the day alone. It has only been in partnership with so many of you that we have been able to make progress on many of the great issues affecting the Internet.

As we seek to fill my role, Pablo Chavez will continue to be a good point of contact in our ongoing work together.

Thank you. With best regards, Alan

By  |  08:22 PM ET, 11/07/2011

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