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Google to expand European presence

Google is planning to expand its staff by a third, with most of the new staff in Europe, as the web search company tries to avoid being seen as an aggressive US multinational.

Google plans to hire several thousand engineers in Europe to create a research and development team in the region as big as the one it has in the US.

Only 500 of an estimated 7,000 Google engineers are currently in Europe, but the company has signalled plans to expand the numbers dramatically.

"I aim to grow the EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] engineering team as big as the one in North America. This is why I joined," Nelson Mattos, Google's new head of engineering in Europe, told the Financial Times. The search group has not specified a timescale for the planned expansion, but it is likely to be within the next three years. Google, which employs 13,786 staff, reached that level in just nine years.

About half the group's employees are understood to be engineers, the bulk of them located at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google hired its first engineer in Europe three years ago and now has engineering offices in 12 countries across the continent.

But it has struggled to gain popularity in some countries such as Russia, where its search engine is ranked third behind local rivals Yandex and Rambler.

Recently it has come under fire on several fronts, adding greater urgency to plans to boost its European image.

European privacy regulators have questioned its data retention policies; it fought a battle with Belgian newspapers over the indexing of articles; and European competition authorities are scrutinising its acquisition of DoubleClick, the digital marketing group.

"We are not seen correctly in Europe," Mr Mattos said. "My impression is that Google is seen as a big US company that is here to make money.

"There is a lack of understanding of how we work. People don't understand the business model, the new computing environment and the employees in shorts."

Mr Mattos said he hoped European engineers would be more culturally sensitive to issues that are important in Europe.

The European engineers are working on products such as mobile phone applications, maps, and features such as reading internet pages from right to left, as is common in the Middle East. Mr Mattos said his team could also create privacy and childprotection software products

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