Toward the end of its 10th anniversary event, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange rattled off a short list of organizations that might be targets of upcoming publications.
Amid the geopolitical power players was one Silicon Valley name: Google.
It’s unclear what WikiLeaks might have in terms of documents or data related to Google. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that the whistleblowing organization would lump Google in with its political targets.
That’s because Assange has long viewed Google as working as a kind of stateless political organization, using its power to overtly and covertly influence international events. Assange wrote at length about these ties (some of which emerged in classified documents published by WikiLeaks) in his 2014 book: “When Google Met WikiLeaks.”
In an extended excerpt, Assange wrote about how his view of Google evolved after he met Chairman Eric Schmidt. In 2011, Schmidt came to England to interview Assange, accompanied by Schmidt’s partner, Lisa Shields, a U.S. State Department official, and Jared Cohen, a then point director of Google’s think-tank, “Google Ideas,” and himself a former employee of the State Department.
Over time, Assange came to view with suspicion Google’s intimate ties to U.S. foreign policy, as well as the company’s attempts to act on its own abroad through Cohen’s activities.
Since then, Google Ideas has morphed into “Jigsaw,” a technology incubator that is “dedicated to understanding global challenges and applying technological solutions.” It is officially a subsidiary of Alphabet, the Google parent company, and Cohen is listed as a cofounder and president. Schmidt is also a cofounder.
Whether WikiLeaks touches on Google’s policy activities or its other issues — related to taxes, antitrust, and privacy in Europe — remains to be seen. But, clearly, the company is in Assange’s crosshairs, which is never a particularly comfortable place to be these days.