US hearing: Google CEO Sundar Pichai questioned on data, content, China search engine

Sundar Pichai testified before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Wednesday

SundarPichai

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai on Wednesday testified before the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. The hearing was titled, ‘Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices”, and was led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte.

According to media reports, during the hearing, which lasted for more than three hours, US lawmakers questioned Pichai on a host of issues, including political bias, tracking users, content moderation and a China search engine.

Pichai reportedly opened the session saying that as an American company, Google cherishes the values and freedoms that have allowed it to grow and serve so many users. He said the company works and will continue to work with the government to keep the country safe and secure.  

On being questioned about Google’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, Pichai reportedly said that at the moment there is no plan to launch a search engine in China. He, however, did not fully deny the possibility. “If we ever approach a decision like that, I will be fully transparent regarding this, including with policy makers,” he reportedly said.

The lawmakers then question Pichai if Google's search results were politically biased. Pichai replied, saying that the search results were based on algorithm and were not influenced by any bias.

“Users also look to us to provide accurate, trusted information. We work hard to ensure the integrity of our products, and we’ve put a number of checks and balances in place to ensure they continue to live up to our standards. I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” he was quoted as saying by some media reports.

Pichai was also asked if Google could track the location of an individual. He replied that Google did have access to users’ basic information, but the company keeps track of how that data is being used.

The CEO also faced questions on the kind of content being allowed on the platform. Pichai said that “this is an area we acknowledge there’s more work to be done.” He shared that the company gets around 400 hours of video every minute on YouTube and agreed that it is their responsibility to check the kind of content that is allowed.

Another question that Pichai faced was why US President Donald Trump’s photos appear in Google Search when one searches for the word ‘idiot’.

Pichai’s reply was that Google relies on several parameters when a search result shows up, and it is not one factor that determines rankings.

“Things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it. And based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best search results for that query,” he reportedly said, adding that Google does not manually intervene in search results.

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