Biden's agency review teams include tech employees from companies like Amazon, Airbnb and Uber

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden arrives at the Queen Theater where later in the day he is scheduled to address the media about the Trump administration’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act on November 10, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.
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President-elect Joe Biden has given few hints at how he would approach concerns around the tech industry but his transition agency review teams are filled with several tech employees — as well as a few prominent advocates of reform.

The transition team disclosed the members of its agency review groups on Tuesday. Most of the tech employees listed are serving as volunteers, which the transition website says means they are serving in a personal capacity. The site says its members’ most recent employers are listed “for informational purposes only.”

Still, the few clues President-elect Joe Biden has offered into his thinking on tech policy issues has left the industry and government watchdogs scouring for hints. While Biden criticized Facebook’s handling of misinformation and said their liability shield should be “revoked” in an interview with the New York Times editorial board published earlier this year, he’s offered few specifics on how he’d handle key concerns for the industry like potential antitrust charges.

Groups like the Revolving Door Project have urged the Biden team to avoid bringing on people with corporate conflicts of interest, including from the tech industry. Their fear stems from the days of the Obama administration, where tech alums seamlessly rotated through the White House. Progressive groups have made clear they believe that sort of makeup should not be repeated.

Biden’s administration will be tasked with handling several high-profile tech policy matters, including the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google, a potential Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Facebook, questions about content moderation, gig worker rights and net neutrality. Watchdog groups have worried that having former tech employees staff the administration could weaken efforts to regulate the industry.

While no one listed on the agency review team has most recently worked for Google, one employee from its sister company Sidewalk Labs (also part of Alphabet) is on the review team for the Department of the Treasury.

Nicole Wong, another member of the teams set to review the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council, worked for Google and Twitter before serving as deputy chief technology officer under Obama.

Austin Lin — one of the few paid employees on the agency review teams — most recently worked at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charity founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan. Lin’s LinkedIn profile says he worked as a technical program manager for CZI from April 2018 to July 2020. He previously worked in the same role at Facebook for a year. Lin will be part of the teams reviewing the Executive Office of the President, Management and Administration and the National Security Council

Other recent tech employees join as volunteers from companies including Airbnb, Amazon, Dell, DropBox, Microsoft’s LinkedIn, Lyft, Stripe and Uber. Many had previously worked at the Obama White House. Some notable names include:

  • Tom Sullivan, Amazon, director of international tax planning (Department of State)
  • Mark Schwartz, Amazon Web Services, enterprise strategist (Office of Management and Budget)
  • Clare Gallagher, Airbnb, partnerships and events manager (National Security Council)
  • Divya Kumaraiah, Airbnb, strategy and program lead (Office of Management and Budget)
  • Brandon Belford, Lyft, senior director, chief of staff for public policy (Office of Management and Budget)
  • Matt Olsen, Uber, chief trust and security officer (Intelligence Community)

At the same time, several people who have been outspoken critics of the tech industry are also part of the agency review teams. Among them:

  • Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, which has called for the breakup of Facebook and Google. She will be reviewing the Treasury Department.
  • Gene Kimmelman, a former antitrust official at the Department of Justice who has advocated for the creation of a new agency to regulate digital platforms, will be reviewing the DOJ.

Apart from the agency review teams, Biden has brought some other tech employees into the fold. Former Facebook attorney Jessica Hertz was named to the transition team as an ethics arbiter, Politico reported last month. Former Apple lobbyist Cynthia Hogan helped Biden select a running mate and former Twitter public policy director Carlos Monje left his job for a role on the transition team, according to Politico.

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