Google wants Bhatia to craft the search giant's public policy strategy on a wide range of issues including artificial intelligence, job creation and critical infrastructure. His first focus will be dealing with a regulatory backlash that includes antitrust investigations and new digital privacy rules.
Bhatia's position has been vacant since last September, when Caroline Atkinson, a former Obama official, stepped down. Google sought candidates from both major political parties to fill it, including Jake Sullivan, a Democratic operative, Bloomberg has reported.
"We're thrilled to hire someone with Karan's impressive experience in global policy," Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs and chief legal officer said in a statement. "He's a widely respected leader who will work with our teams to advocate for policies that encourage growth and innovation."
Bhatia will report to Walker, who represented Google at congressional hearings last fall on Russian operatives' use of online services to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. Susan Molinari, a former Republican member of Congress, who has led Google's US government relations office since 2012 will report to Bhatia.
"This is an incredible opportunity to join such an exciting company in a fast-moving industry," Bhatia said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to contributing across a range of products that people use every day, and to important policy debates." The hire was reported earlier by Axios.
Bhatia arrives at Google having served as General Electric's president of government affairs and policy, where he oversaw a team of more than 100 employees. He's leaving General Electric as the search giant expands from its advertising roots into cloud computing, consumer devices, transportation, health care and even chip design.
He was also previously a deputy US trade representative under former President George W. Bush and a partner at a Washington law firm.
While Bhatia will have to juggle an array of domestic policy issues, including privacy and cybersecurity, his largest burden comes in Europe. The EU is expected to rule soon on its antitrust case against Google's Android mobile operating system, one of three probes against the search giant.
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