The tech giant Google has paid academics up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to research topics that support the company’s business practices, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, based on data compiled by the Campaign for Accountability, an advocacy group that has received funding from companies that compete with Google.
The newspaper reported that Google at times compiled “wish lists” of academic studies, complete with titles and abstracts, and then searched for academics who were game to write the papers. In many cases, the Journal reported, the authors of the papers failed to disclose that they had received funding from Google.
Those studies included research suggesting that collecting user data was a fair trade for the services Google provides or that it hadn’t competed unfairly against market rivals. The article also states that Google has provided the research to lawmakers, and sometimes covered travel costs for professors to meet government officials.
The company told the newspaper that since its beginnings at Stanford University, it had maintained close ties to higher-education institutions. “We’re happy to support academic researchers across computer science and policy topics, including copyright, free expression and surveillance, and to help amplify voices that support the principles of an open internet,” the company told the newspaper.
Paul Heald, a law professor at the University of Illinois, was among the professors named by the Journal as having taken money from Google, but he said it didn’t influence his research. He added, “That’s purely oversight” that he failed to mention that Google had sponsored his paper on copyright.
Here’s the Campaign for Accountability’s list of authors who have accepted funding from Google.