Kevin McCarthy anxious about Google’s next steps in China

Wednesday, 12 Dec, 2018

But Pichai told the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee yesterday that Google is not planning to launch search in China.

Lawmakers pummeled Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, accusing the search giant of producing politically biased results, hoovering up sensitive user data, and collaborating with China's authoritarian government.

During the hearing, Pichai also had to answer questions about alleged bias in its search results, after President Donald Trump accused Google in August of rigging search results at the expense of Republican and conservative opinions.

Pichai was called into Congress to comment on a variety of subjects, including the company's political bias with search results, data collected by Android devices, and much more. "To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests", according to remarks prepared for the hearing.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, didn't rule out launching a censorship and surveillance tool in China, but indicated the company will be transparent and "thoughtful" about any such plans.

"It's no coincidence that a company dedicated to the free flow of information was founded right here in the US", he said.

The Trump administration has placed numerous restrictions on the popular H-1B visa programme that grants temporary, non-immigrant work documents allowing highly skilled foreign workers to serve USA companies.

It's that even if they aren't, they could be, and we wouldn't know about it. Google is subject to no official oversight, monitoring, or transparency requirements created to prevent political search engine manipulation.

Pichai's testimony was overshadowed by the memory of his empty chair from a September hearing he skipped. "We now don't plan on having a search product there". That's another area of potential questions to Pichai by committee members.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies before the House Judiciary Committee

Politicians have already demanded to know why Google seems willing to censor search results at the behest of Chinese Community Party but has pulled back from two contracts with the USA military.

In their questioning, Republicans expressed concern about search results that may be tilted against conservatives.

Yet in Washington, Pichai has effectively been a nonentity, and Google - the town's biggest corporate lobbyist - has had to do its politicking without his presence.

Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told a USA congressional panel Google had over 100 people working on the project at one point. Collins asked Pichai how long Google retains user data.

"Our efforts around building search, you know, it's undertaken by our search teams, but these are distributed efforts", he said. A study from Pew reveals 85 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats believe social media companies intentionally censor viewpoints they find objectionable.

In a letter in August to USA lawmakers, Pichai said providing such a search engine would give "broad benefits" to China but that it was unclear whether Google could launch the service there. "To give users access to information, and you know, I have that commitment, but you know, as I said earlier on this, we will be very thoughtful, and we will engage widely as we make progress".

Google shut down its search engine in China in 2010 after China insisted on censoring search results.

"When it comes to political bias, the lack of transparency and the lack of ability for the public to understand how it works, means suspicion will continue", Pasquale said.